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  • A demonstrator approaches police officers during a protest demanding the removal of the ruling elite in Algiers, Algeria September 13, 2019.

    A demonstrator approaches police officers during a protest demanding the removal of the ruling elite in Algiers, Algeria September 13, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 September 2019

The absence of an elected president since Bouteflika resigned in April has left Africa's largest country, a major energy exporter, in constitutional limbo.

Tens of thousands of Algerians marched in the capital on Friday to demand that the rest of the ruling elite follow former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in leaving power before any new elections occur.

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For the 30th consecutive week, Friday demonstrations took place in Argel demanding that the country's political elites step down. They also demanded that authorities release Karim Tabou, a prominent opposition leader who has been held since Wednesday and charged with "contributing to weakening army morale."

The army, the strongest institution in Algeria, wants a presidential election as soon as possible to break the deadlock between the protesters and the authorities.

"No vote as long as the gang rules the country," read one banner, referring to interim President Abdelkader Bensaleh and Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, who is expected to resign soon. "Free Tabou, free Tabou," another banner read.

The election had been previously scheduled for July, but was later postponed as a result of the political crisis, leaving oil- and gas-exporter Algeria in a constitutional deadlock. 

The mass demonstrations began in February and have continued since Bouteflika’s departure, with the loose-knit opposition movement demanding that all figures associated with him also leave and that the army play a smaller role in state affairs.

Over the summer the authorities have made concessions by arresting more prominent figures linked to Bouteflika on corruption charges, while increasing the pressure on protesters with tougher policing.

Dozens of Bouteflika allies including two former prime ministers, two former intelligence chiefs, ministers and influential business tycoons have been put behind bars on corruption charges, but the protesters are calling for wider measures to overturn the old order.

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