Thousands of people have gathered in the Algerian capital calling on interim President Abdelkader Bensalah to quit after he vowed to stay in power until a new head of state was elected.
Carrying banners reading “You all go” and “We need new figures”, protesters packed central Algiers on Friday for the 16th consecutive week demanding the removal of the ruling elite.
Bensalah, speaker of the upper house, was elected by parliament to lead the North African country when President Abdelaziz Bouteflika quit on April 2 in the face of widespread protests against his 20-year rule.
Elections were set for July 4, under constitutional rules that state a presidential election must be held within 90 days, but Algeria‘s constitutional council on Sunday called off the vote citing a lack of candidates.
No new date has been set, and the council has suggested Bensalah’s mandate be extended. The 77-year-old politician on Thursday called for “inclusive dialogue” to prepare for an election.
But the protesters have been staunchly against presidential polls being held as long as the current leaders, which they accuse of having links to Bouteflika, remain in power.
One banner held up by protesters read: “Bensalah go”.
They also called on army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah – who has become the country’s power broker – to “clear off” as police deployed massively across the centre of the capital.
“We will not tolerate Bensalah,” protester Ismail Omrani said. “He will not remain the head of the state as he said yesterday.”
Hamid, a civil servant, added that any dialogue “should be with the real holder of power, and that means the army. Bensalah does not make the decisions.”