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Thousands of Algerians return to rally against ruling elite

Demonstrators rally peacefully in the capital Algiers after Friday prayers, one month on from the fall of Bouteflika
'You must go' and 'Thieves you have destroyed the country,' read banners held up by protesters (AFP)

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 2 April after 20 years in power. 

Protesters have continued mass demonstrations every Friday, demanding other members of the country's 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 4 July, 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 up by protesters.

Fraud crackdown

The army remains the most powerful institution in Algeria, having controlled politics from the shadows for decades. 

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So far, it has patiently monitored the mostly peaceful protests that at times have swelled to hundreds of thousands of people.

On Wednesday, army chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah - who helped push out Bouteflika after having him declared unfit for office - said the military would ensure the country does not descend into violence, state TV reported.

Salah said the ongoing marches showed there was consensus on how to get out of the crisis, state TV reported. 

Earlier in the week, Salah had said several big corruption cases would come to light in a crackdown on fraud.

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

'Dialogue is the only way'

Algeria's ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) party on Wednesday endorsed Salah's approach and called on protesters and opposition parties to pursue dialogue to end the crisis.

"We hail the army's leadership for its harmony with the people," newly-elected FLN leader Mohamed Djemai said in televised comments. 

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"Dialogue is the only way to get out of this situation."

Djemai, a 50-year-old businessman, replaced Moad Bouchared on Tuesday as chief of the FLN, which has governed the country since independence from France in 1962.

Mass protests broke out on 22 February to demand the departure of the entire ruling elite, including the FLN.

"We feel pain and some party members cry when we hear 'FLN, go," Djemai said, referring to a slogan commonly chanted by protesters. 

"We ask the people forgiveness if we have made mistakes."