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Algerians mark first anniversary of anti-regime protests

Demonstrators carry flags and gesture during an anti-government protest in Algiers, Algeria, on February 21, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

Thousands of Algerians have taken to the streets to mark the first anniversary of a protest movement that toppled President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, still demanding the removal of the entire ruling elite.

The demonstrators gathered in front of the Grande Poste, the post office, in central Algiers, a symbolic building for the protest movement, on Friday before marching in the capital.

They were joined by another huge crowd of demonstrators who set off from the district of Bab El Oued.

During the 53rd consecutive Friday of demonstrations, the protesters chanted, “The people want the fall of the regime” and “We have not come to party, we have come to get rid of you,” in reference to politicians considered corrupt, amid heavy police presence.

According to reports on social media, similar protests were also held in major cities across Algeria, and more demonstrations are expected on Saturday.

The protests erupted on February 22 last year after the country’s longest-serving leader, Bouteflika, announced his plan to seek a fifth term in office. Bouteflika, who had been in power for 20 years, announced his resignation on April 2 after the country’s army chief withdrew support for the ailing president following months of protests against his rule.

Despite his fall, the movement, which is known as “hirak,” has continued, as many demand the removal of all figures associated with Bouteflika’s regime. They also seek more steps toward democracy and better living standards.

In December, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, once a prime minister under Bouteflika, was elected president in elections boycotted by many people.

Tebboune on Thursday praised the protest movement and pledged to implement “all of its demands.”

But organizations close to the protest movement urged “continued mobilization” in a manifesto published Thursday to force out members of the old guard. They condemned the state for taking “repressive measures” against journalists, activists, and protesters.

Algerians “want their country ruled and managed with transparency” by “accountable officials, an independent judiciary and a parliament that is not a rubber stamp body,” they wrote in the manifesto.

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