Hundreds of thousands protest against ruling elite in Algeria

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of protesters rallied peacefully in Algiers after Friday prayers, chanting “We will not shut up!” and demanding the departure of Algeria’s ruling elite a month after the downfall of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

Weeks of demonstrations forced Bouteflika out of office on April 2 after 20 years in power. Protesters have continued mass demonstrations every Friday, demanding other members of the elite also give way.

They are calling for the resignation of the interim president, Abdelkader Bensalah, who is serving for 90 days until an election on July 4, and of Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, appointed by Bouteflika days before he stepped down.

“You must go” and “Thieves you have destroyed the country”, read banners held by protesters. “Algeria, free and democratic,” others chanted while marching through central Algiers.

There was no official count but a Reuters journalist estimated the crowd to be hundreds of thousands like last week.

The army remains the most powerful institution in Algeria, having swayed politics from the shadows for decades. It has so far patiently monitored the mostly peaceful protests.

Last week, the army chief of staff, Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah - who helped push out Bouteflika after having him declared unfit for office - said several big corruption cases would come to light in a crackdown on graft.

A number of figures from the ruling elite, including the finance minister, former prime minister and several rich businessmen have come under investigation in recent weeks.

Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Janet Lawrence

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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