Algerian protesters mark year of protests and demand more reforms

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Several thousand Algerians demonstrated on Friday to mark the first anniversary of protests that ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, demanding the removal of allies of the former leader who are still in power and more steps towards democracy.

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“We broke the wall of fear a year ago. We will continue,” the protesters chanted as they marched through the streets of the capital Algiers.

The protests broke out on Feb. 22, 2019, to reject Bouteflika’s plan to seek a fifth term in office and demand the prosecution of people involved in corruption as well as political reforms.

He resigned in April last year but protests have still been held every week.

Two former prime ministers, several ex-ministers and prominent businessmen have been detained in anti-graft investigations since Bouteflika’s resignation.

But demonstrators are now seeking the removal of Bouteflika allies who remain in power. They also want more steps towards democracy and better living standards.

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has released dozens of people detained during the protests and announced plans to amend the constitution to allow a greater role for the parliament and government.

Tebboune, elected in last December in a vote largely opposed by demonstrators, on Thursday praised the protest movement and promised to meet all demands. But he warned against any attempt to infiltrate the demonstrations that could lead to violence.

He has also offered dialogue with the leaderless movement, which is known as “hirak”, and the number of demonstrators has gone down since the election.

The political crisis adds to economic problems the authorities are facing after a fall in energy earnings, the main source of state finances, and foreign exchange reserves.

“We will keep up pressure until the achievement of all goals,” said 37-year-old school teacher Bachir Amari, marching on Hassiba Ben Bouali Street with his wife and two sons amid heavy police presence.

Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Angus MacSwan