UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators rallied in central Algiers on Friday to demand President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step down after 20 years in power, Reuters reporters said.
Protesters gathered in spite of the rain, raising Algerian flags and signs in the center of the capital, where protests began for the first time a month ago against Bouteflika.
Police vehicles were deployed but there were no reports of clashes between protesters and security forces.
“The rain will not stop us from continuing our pressure,” said Ahmed Khoja, 23.
“We will stay here until the entire regime is gone,” said Mahmoud Timmar, 37, a teacher.
Bouteflika, 82, has been subdued by demonstrations last week and has announced he will not seek a fifth term and vowed a policy that would include everyone in Algeria.
But he did not immediately step down and said he would remain in office until a new constitution was drafted, which meant extending his term. The move has spurred public anger and many of Bouteflika’s allies, members of the ruling party, union leaders and businessmen have begun to abandon him.
“We’re getting closer to victory,” said the owner of a restaurant, Rashid Zamir, 55, who took part in protests on Friday. The system is divided on itself.”
– The army and the ruling party support the protests –
In the most dramatic development over a month of protests, chief of staff Lieutenant-General Ahmed Kayed Saleh threw the army behind the protesters on Wednesday and said they had expressed “noble goals.”
Soldiers remained in their barracks during the protests, but the army has always had a strong influence on politics.
The army has intervened before in critical times, including the cancellation of elections that an Islamist party was poised to win in 1992, triggering a decade-long civil war that killed some 200,000 people.
Some members of the ruling National Liberation Front party also sided with the protesters.
In the past, Bouteflika and his close circle, veterans of the War of Independence from France and officials of the ruling party and the army, succeeded in dealing with crises brilliantly.
Even if Bouteflika announced he would step down, it was not clear whether the widening protests could bring down the deep state of a network of ruling party leaders, business leaders and army commanders.
These figures may be pleased with Bouteflika’s departure but will probably resist any major political changes, as in the past.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for VOP from different countries around the world – edited and published by VOP staff in our newsroom.
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