ALGIERS – Algerians unhappy with their government took to the streets again on Friday even though ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down earlier this week in a bid to appease the populace.
For the seventh consecutive Friday, thousands of people gathered in Grand Post square and other points in central Algiers to call for the removal of the entire regime that they say has spent the last few years propping up and manipulating the 82-year-old Bouteflika.
Amid the festive atmosphere that has marked the protests since they began on Feb. 22, protesters chanted slogans denouncing the “Triple B,” referring to the trio named to oversee the transition process: Senate head Abdelkader Bensalah; Constitutional Council chairman Tayeb Belaiz; and former Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.
Opponents of the government say the three veteran politicians are part of a “mafia of power” that also includes other senior officials and businessmen who have been part of Bouteflika’s circle.
Protesters want those powerful insiders to face prosecution and be forced to pay back the public money they have spent over the last two decades under Bouteflika.
Banners reading “The people reject Bensalah, Bedoui and Belaiz as well as the entire system” and “The hypocritical government must fall, the band of criminals must be tried,” were seen in Grand Post and Audin squares.
“The people want them all to go,” crowds chanted and it was clear the demand extended to the army chief of staff, Gen. Ahmed Gaïd Salah, who became one of the most powerful men in the country after he helped force Bouteflika to step down.
Some protesters held up signs denouncing Gaïd Salah as an “accomplice” of Bouteflika, though chants in support of the army as an institution were also heard.
The protests against Bouteflika, who has rarely been seen in public since he suffered a stroke in 2013, began after presidential aides announced his intention to seek another term in the elections that were initially scheduled for April 18.
Though Bouteflika withdrew from the race on March 11, his withdrawal was accompanied by a postponement of the balloting, which sparked suspicions that he was maneuvering to remain in power beyond the end of his current mandate.
Many Algerians are weary of military control of the government, which has been a feature of politics since the country gained its independence from France in 1962.