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Algeria: Millions protest for the sixth week against Bouteflika

Thousands of students, doctors and civil servants stage a protest to demand President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step from power, in front of Central Post Office Square in Algiers, Algeria on March 19, 2019 [Farouk Batiche / Anadolu Agency]
Thousands of students, doctors and civil servants stage a protest to demand President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step from power, in front of Central Post Office Square in Algiers, Algeria on 19 March 2019 [Farouk Batiche / Anadolu Agency]

For the sixth week in a row, Algerians yesterday returned to the streets to protest against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika remaining in his position as president. This comes just days after the army proposed to operationalise Article 102 by declaring the position of president vacant.

Millions of protesters streamed into Grand Post Square in the capital Algiers, where they chanted slogans against the regime. According to pictures circulated on social media, a number of demonstrators had camped overnight in the square prior to the protests.

The Algerian army’s Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaïd Salah, called on Tuesday for a constitutional process to remove Bouteflika – who has been president for the last 20 years – from power, declaring his inability to exercise his duties because of the illness from which he has been suffering since 2013.

After the declaration made by Salah – who has been known for his loyalty to Bouteflika during his 15 years of service – the National Rally for Democracy (RND), one of the pillars of the ruling presidential alliance, also renounced the president. The party’s Secretary-General, Ahmed Ouyahia, demanded Bouteflika’s resignation.

The General Secretary of the General Federation of Algerian WorkersAbdelMajid Sidi El-Said, one of the most loyal personalities to the Algerian president, announced that he supports the army’s proposal to end Bouteflika’s term.

Read: Algeria’s Movement of Society for Peace proposes ‘6-month political transition’

Meanwhile Ali Haddad, head of the FCE Business forum, who has also been known to hold a close relationship with the president, announced his resignation on Thursday evening.

Over the past few years, the FCE Business Forum has become a solid political support tool for president Bouteflika, strongly backing the latter’s re-election bid for a fifth term until the last minute.

On the other hand, the Algerian Foreign Ministry yesterday denied news about confiscating diplomatic passports from local officials to prevent them from fleeing the country for fear of the repercussions of the current protests.

According to the ministry’s statement, published by Algeria’s national press agency, the information “reported by some media outlets, including news websites, about the confiscation of diplomatic passports by the security authorities is incorrect and lacks credibility”.

The statement also indicated that “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that no restrictive action has been taken by any authority against the holders of these travel documents”.

Read: France has no right to interfere in Algeria’s protests, foreign minister says

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