Algeria top official quits as protests go on - GulfToday

Algeria top official quits as protests go on

Algeria-protest

Students are confronted by police during a demonstration in Algiers on Tuesday. Agence France-Presse

In yet more upheaval for Algeria since the ousting of long-time leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the controversial head of the country’s constitutional council quit on Tuesday bowing to weeks of anger from protesters.

Tayeb Belaiz’s resignation was announced by state television and comes as the council prepares to oversee a presidential election.

The 70-year-old is one of the “3B” top figures targeted by demonstrators in mass rallies which prompted the departure of Bouteflika this month.

Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui and Abdelkader Bensalah − who served as upper house speaker until being appointed interim president after Bouteflika quit − have also faced calls to step down.

“We will continue what we have started,” said university student Linda, one of thousands taking part in a protest on Tuesday in central Algiers.

Police were massively deployed around the capital’s post office building, the focal point of anti-government rallies which first erupted in February.

“Free Algeria,” chanted protests, who rallied outside the iconic building.

Also on Tuesday, army chief of staff General Ahmed Gaid Salah vowed the military would not turn its guns on demonstrators, while urging them to remain patient.

Soldiers have “clear and unequivocal instructions to protect civilians, especially during the (protest) marches,” he said in a speech.

The weapons of Algeria’s army were “directed against the enemies of the nation and not against its people,” the army chief said.

Salah called for demonstrators to show “wisdom and patience” and said “all options remain open to overcome the difficulties and find a solution to the crisis as soon as possible.”

Despite Bensalah calling a presidential election on July 4, demonstrations have continued as Algerians call for a broader overhaul of the political system.

The interim president has defended his appointment, but protesters are demanding regime stalwarts be entirely excluded from any political transition.

“We will continue to march until a transitional (authority) led by clean politicians is set up,” medical student Mira Laifa told reporters.

“The people want them all to leave,” chanted the crowds, in reference to the interim authorities.

Agence France-Presse