Violent clashes broke out between demonstrators and police forces during a mass anti-regime protest in Algiers on Friday. 108 people were arrested and 27 cops were injured.
Police fired tear gas and arrested scores of protesters in Algiers, as massive crowds gathered for the first Friday demonstrations since the announcement of presidential elections to succeed deposed leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The crowd size on Friday was estimated at hundreds of thousands of people, although there was no official count. The demonstrators were chanting for the overhaul of the government, following Bouteflika’s removal.
Since February, revolutionaries have taken to the streets in Algeria, forcing Abdelaziz Bouteflika to end his two decades in power. However, militants have made it clear that they will continue their rebellion until the regime has been completely overthrown. Calls were made for an eighth consecutive Friday of demonstrations, this time under the slogan of “They will all leave.”
While Bouteflika has stepped down, repression has continued against demonstrators, who have not been fooled by the regime’s attempt to satisfy protesters by replacing Bouteflika with interim leader Abdelkader Bensalah, a close ally of Bouteflika.
The protesters’ momentum seems to be unstoppable. They have demanded the ‘Three Bs’ to leave, meaning the head of the Constitutional Council, Tayeb Belaiz, Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui and interim leader Abdelkader Bensalah.
Presidential elections are to be held on July 4, Bensalah’s office announced on Wednesday, just hours after he pledged “transparent” polls.
The new date was set a day after Bensalah assumed office for a 90-day period, as stipulated by the constitution but much to the ire of demonstrators.
The appointment of upper house speaker Bensalah as Algeria’s first new president in 20 years has failed to meet the demands of demonstrators.
Although 77-year-old Bensalah is barred under the constitution from running in the upcoming election, protesters have nonetheless pushed for the close Bouteflika ally to step down.
Students and magistrates have called for renewed rallies and marches in the capital and other cities across the North African country.
For the first time since the anti-Bouteflika protest movement was launched in mid-February, police vehicles and forces tried to block off access to the post office.
But young protesters were undeterred.
“We will be out in large numbers, very large. They don’t know what’s coming. They won’t be able to do anything against us,” said Yassine, 23.
For Mahrez Bouich, a philosophy professor at the University of Bejaia, east of Algiers: “The July 4 election has already been rejected by the people, which also refuses Bensalah’s nomination.”
The demonstrators argue that elections cannot be free and fair if they are held under the same judicial framework and institutions as those of the Bouteflika regime.
Anger is also mounting at military chief, General Ahmed Gaid Salah, who was instrumental in Bouteflika’s departure but then threw his support behind the interim leader, who is seen as part of the old regime.
As in Sudan, revolutionaries in Algeria aim to sweep away the whole ruling system, and are now facing counter-revolutionary forces from the old regime.