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February 15, 2020

Algerians keep up protests a year after demonstrations began

World

February 15, 2020

ALGIERS: Thousands of Algerians marched on Friday, a year since the start of weekly protests calling for a complete overhaul of the ruling elite, an end to corruption and the army’s withdrawal from politics. “We will not stop,” chanted a crowd in the center of the capital Algiers, despite a large police presence. Over the past year the protesters have changed the face of Algeria’s power structure, causing the fall of a veteran president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and the arrest of dozens of leading figures including a once untouchable former intelligence chief. However, while the new president has released people detained in the protests, set up a commission to amend the constitution and offered talks to the opposition, much of the old ruling elite remains in place. The leaderless protest movement, known as “hirak”, is demanding more concessions, including the release of more activists and the departure of more senior figures from positions of power. “Our hirak is tireless. We are ready to keep marching for months more,” said Yazid Chabi, a 23-year-old student on the central Didouche Mourad street in central Algiers. However, since December’s presidential election the number of protesters has fallen according to people attending the marches each week. Hirak opposed the election, regarding as illegitimate any vote that took place while the old ruling elite was in power and while the military was involved in politics.