Protesters filled the streets of the Algerian capital and other cities on Friday for the 12th consecutive week, and the country’s army chief was the prime target of their opposition.
In Algiers, people gathered by the hundreds at the landmark Grande Poste building and crowded into a major avenue for the first of the weekly anti-government demonstrations since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Neither Ramadan’s dawn to dusk fasting nor high temperatures dissuaded citizens from marching. Some chanted for army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah to “get out.” Others shouted that Algeria needs “a civilian state and not a dictator.”
Gaid Salah played a leading role in the protesters’ push for a fully democratic republic. The protests started Feb. 22 over President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s plan to seek a fifth term.
Bouteflika resigned April 2 under pressure from the protesters, and the army chief.
Gaid Salah is now being accused of co-opting the “people’s revolution.” He supports holding a presidential election Algeria’s interim leader called for July 4.
Many protesters see the election as a maneuver to keep the old guard from Bouteflika’s 20 years as president entrenched in power. They argue more time is needed to get the country out of crisis mode before a new leader is chosen.
The weekly protests have been largely calm despite the high political stakes.