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Algeria's streets flooded by demonstrators calling for removal of ruling elite

Abdelaziz Bouteflika is gone, but protesters are pushing for the further removal of establishment figures
A man carries a sign reading "System, get out" during a protest seeking the departure of the ruling elite in Algiers, Algeria (Reuters)

Tens of thousands of protesters rallied in Algiers for an eighth successive Friday to demand the departure of the ruling elite as Algeria prepares for a presidential election in July.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down after 20 years in power 10 days ago, bowing to pressure from the army and weeks of demonstrations mainly by young people seeking change in the North African country.

The former president's resignation has not erased the country's long-established class of political power-brokers, many of whom are believed to operate behind the scenes and are ominously known among Algerians as le pouvoir (the power) or le systeme (the system).

Protests have continued as many want the removal of an elite that has governed the country since independence from France in 1962 and the prosecution of figures they see as corrupt and associated with the regime.

Bouteflika has been replaced by Abdelkader Bensalah, head of the upper house of parliament, as interim president for 90 days until a presidential election on 4 July.

"No to Bensalah," the protesters chanted, marching peacefully in the centre of Algiers, where mass protests broke out on 22 February.

A Reuters correspondent at the scene estimated the crowd size at tens of thousands of people, although there was no official count.

Banners reading "We want the prosecution of all corrupt people" and "No to the gang" were held aloft. Many protesters waved Algeria's white, green and red crescent moon flag.

One of them, who gave his name as Nawal, told Reuters: "We came out today to say that Bensalah's position is unconstitutional.

"We do not deserve military rule. We deserve a democratic and free Algeria."

Demonstrations were also underway in other cities of Algeria, including Bejaia and Tizi Ouzou, the main cities of the northern region of Kabylie.

Local journalists also told AFP that protesters were marching under their umbrellas in Constantine and Annaba, the country's third and fourth largest cities, although rain apparently weakened the mobilisation.

On Wednesday, Algeria's army chief, Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaid Salah, said he expected to see members of the ruling elite close to Bouteflika - a group he called the "gang" - prosecuted for corruption. He said would support a transition toward elections.

More than one in four people under the age of 30, some 70 percent of the population, are unemployed in Algeria - one of the central grievances of protesters who want the economy liberalized and diversified to reduce its reliance on its oil and gas production.

The army monitored the unrest from the sidelines. Then Salah intervened, declaring Bouteflika - rarely seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013 - unfit to rule.