Thousands of Algerians took to the streets on Friday trying to push their ailing president from power and bring down the corrupt political system seen. The police force reportedly used water cannons as they tried to disperse hundreds of thousands of protesters calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down.
It’s the first protest since the army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah called earlier this week for the constitutional process to declare Bouteflika unfit to rule the country. Other politicians and parties backed the idea as a solution to end Algeria’s political crisis.
Some demonstrators even demanded for an entire political overhaul, saying that while they were against Bouteflika they also rejected the army’s intervention in the country’s political affair. The protestors claim Salah’s call for Bouteflika to step down was a clear reminder to Algerians that the army intends to retain its vast influence in politics. They see the army chief’s proposal as a way for the secretive political elite to keep their grip on power and name a hand-picked successor to Bouteflika.
A large number of demonstrators held signs calling for the departure of the army chief or referring to Article 102 of the constitution, which Salah proposed using to remove Bouteflika from power. Even key allies of Bouteflika have deserted the head of state, who has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013 and now faces the biggest crisis of his 20-year-old rule.
“I cry because they kidnapped Algeria and the army’s proposal is a real travesty,” said Saadia Belaid, one of the protestors.
Although Bouteflika has finally refused to bid for the upcoming election, he also canceled the April 18 vote pending electoral reforms, raising fears he would cling to power indefinitely. He has proposed the national conference made up of various representatives of society to prepare new elections.
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