Biggest protest yet demands Algerian President Bouteflika step down
CGTN

Masses of people took to the streets of Algiers for the fourth Friday in a row demanding President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step down in the biggest demonstration yet against his 20-year rule.

Reuters journalists estimated the crowd at hundreds of thousands of people, while AFP news agency cited security sources saying numbers exceeded demonstrations a week ago when tens of thousands of people across the country came out to protest.   

No heavy clashes were reported but the authorities said some 75 protesters were arrested and 11 policemen were slightly injured during the demonstrations.

A statement from the Algerian national police (DGSN) said it arrested people involved in vandalism, theft and destruction of public and private property.

Bouteflika on Monday reversed a decision to stand for a fifth term after weeks of demonstrations against him, but also canceled the upcoming election and stopped short of relinquishing office, saying he would stay on until a new constitution is adopted.

Thousands of people stage a protest march against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's decision this week to postpone presidential elections in Algiers, Algeria, March 15, 2019. /VCG Photo

Thousands of people stage a protest march against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's decision this week to postpone presidential elections in Algiers, Algeria, March 15, 2019. /VCG Photo

Algerians quickly rejected his offer and demanded that the 82-year-old president hand over power to a young generation of leaders who can create jobs and stamp out corruption.

Bouteflika has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013 and protesters say he is no longer fit for office.

In Algiers, protesters crammed streets and squares in the capital after Friday prayers, many draped in Algeria's green, white and red flag.

Demonstrations also took place in Bejaia, Oran, Batna, Tizi Ouzou and other cities.

Protests have drawn tens of thousands for each of the last three Fridays, with smaller rallies taking place on other days.

The protest movement has been led by students, in a country where half the population is under the age of 30 and youth unemployment has spurred anger against a government seen as out of touch.

Algerians demonstrate in central Algiers, March 15, 2019. /VCG Photo

Algerians demonstrate in central Algiers, March 15, 2019. /VCG Photo

The new prime minister, Noureddine Bedoui, said on Thursday he would form a temporary government of technocrats and others to work toward political change, and he urged the opposition to join in a dialogue.

A former minister who is familiar with Bouteflika's inner circle told Reuters, however, that the president could not survive given the pressure building against him.

"Game over. Bouteflika has no choice but to quit now," the former minister said on condition of anonymity.

(Cover picture: Algerians demonstrate in central Algiers, March 15, 2019. /VCG Photo)

Source(s): AFP ,Reuters