Algiers – Thousands of Algerians defied police cordons on Friday and converged on the capital demanding the departure of the country’s newly appointed president Abdelkader Bensalah.
Protesters are calling for the resignation of Bensalah, who the opposition sees as an ally of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Bensalah was appointed by parliament on Tuesday to lead the north African country in a three-month transitional period after Bouteflika was forced to step down.
Police on Friday blocked all access roads leading to the capital, Algiers, to stop protesters from reaching the city, according to witnesses.
Large numbers of riot police were also deployed in Algiers’ major public squares ahead of the protests, witnesses said.
But as the number of demonstrators swelled, police evacuated many of the public areas.
Demonstrators also carried placards demanding the departure of incumbent Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, who was appointed by the ex-president, and chairman of the Constitutional Council Tayeb Belaiz.
Demonstrators also chanted against the country’s powerful military chief, Gaid Saleh, after he had announced backing for the interim president’s handling of the transitional stage.
“It’s a republic, not barracks,” some demonstrators chanted. They were reacting to Saleh’s earlier comment that the removal of Bouteflika-era officials would be “crippling.”
Bouteflika, 82, was forced to resign on April 2 after weeks of nationwide protests against his 20-year rule and pressure from the influential military.
Since Bouteflika’s resignation, thousands of Algerians have taken to the streets opposing his successor and demanding an overhaul of the political system in the country.