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  • Lawyers protesting against President Bouteflika administration in Algiers, Algeria, March 23, 2019.

    Lawyers protesting against President Bouteflika administration in Algiers, Algeria, March 23, 2019. | Photo: EFE

Published 23 March 2019

Algerians demand the departure of an old elite which has been governing the country since 1962.

Hundreds of Algerian lawyers gathered Saturday in downtown Algiers to demand the fall of the “inner power circle” surrounding President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who they blame for the acute economic crisis that the country has been suffering since 2014.

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Shouting "Free Algeria," "Go away now,” “Respect the people's will ” and “Free judiciary from corrupt dignitaries,” citizens packed the Grand Post Square and surrounding avenues. Since Feb. 22, groups have been marching peacefully to demand immediate political changes.

Today, Algerian citizens were escorted by hundreds of riot police who tried unsuccessfully to restrain them with a security barrier on Didouche Mourad Avenue, the capital’s commercial epicenter. The Algerians, however, broke the barrier between applauses and without violence.

"The people have spoken very clearly that those who govern now are not supported anymore,” Samia Ali, a woman lawyer from Kabylia, said and added that “we are here to ask for the end of the mafia surrounding the President."

Similarly Hedibel Sidali, a lawyer living in Algiers, showed his dissatisfaction with the political situation and requested that existing legal frameworks be respected.

"The current Constitution should be applied,” Sidali said and explained that if it is not respected, “we should apply the first Constitution, which provides the basis [for the current one]."

Sidali criticized the constitutional amendments that Bouteflika imposed, most of which were aimed at allowing him to be re-elected for a third, fourth and fifth term, despite his age, illness and disability.

"Bouteflika has turned the Constitution into a wet paper, designed to satisfy his ambitions," he said and requested that all the ministers, who have governed along with the 82-year-old leader for all these years, be judged.

A month ago, demonstrations began to demand the resignation of the Algerian president, who has been seriously ill and disabled since he suffered an acute stroke in 2013.

Although Bouteflika on March 11 annoucned he would not to run for a fifth consecutive term, protests grew in all Algerian cities. Now citizens are demanding the departure of the president's team.

The force of the demonstrations has not abated even with the application of the "Bouteflika plan," which includes the postponement of the April 18 presidential elections, the formation of an inclusive government and the holding of new elections on an undefined date.

Citizens believe that such plan is just another political maneuver envisioned by an exhausted ruling elite which has governed the country since 1962.

"The political transition cannot be accomplished by those who have their hands stained by corruption,” lawyer Mohamad Anas said, stressing that Algerians do not recognize the authority of “the same ones who have ruined this country.”

According to some “tricky” legal interpretations, Bouteflika, who has not been seen in public since his resignation, has actually extended his mandate and will be president until a new government emerges from future elections.

"The problem is that the Constitution has been twisted so much that everyone uses it for particular purposes," Amir B.L., a lawyer, said and added that "the only thing certain is that Bouteflika is no longer president, he no longer represents the Algerians because he has lost his legitimacy."

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