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Algeria protesters keep up pressure as deadline looms for presidential bids

Algerians protest 36th consecutive week over plans to hold presidential vote on 12 December
Protester in Algiers holds up sign that reads: 'My voice is sacred just like my dignity and my freedom' (AFP)

Thousands of people protested in the Algerian capital against the country's political elite as a deadline loomed for candidates to submit their intent to run in a forthcoming presidential election.

The streets of Algiers were full on Friday, AFP news agency reported, as people took to the streets for the 36th consecutive week to demonstrate against the country's ruling powerbrokers and their plan to hold a presidential vote in December.

"There are lots of people in the streets of Algiers ... still with the same determination," said Said Salhi, vice-president of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, during the protest. "It is a real showdown," he told AFP.

The Algerian president's office has been vacant since longtime leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in April following mass protests against his attempt to run for a fifth term.

Since that time, Algerian protesters have continued to demand the dismissal of corrupt politicians and individuals who had close ties to Bouteflika over his two decades in power. 

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The protesters say that elections, now scheduled for 12 December, should not be organised until those officials are removed from power.

They have also accused the country's leaders of seeking to install a Bouteflika-like replacement as president.

"There won't be a vote", read a sign held up by one of the protesters, according to AFP.

Still, the country's powerful army chief, Ahmed Gaid Salah, has insisted that elections be held to break the current political impasse.

Last month, Salah ordered buses and cars bringing protesters into Algiers to be stopped and seized as part of a series of measures aimed at quelling the weekly demonstrations.

On Friday, a drawing of Salah and Algeria's interim President Abdelkader Bensalah being booted into "the dustbin of history" was visible among the protesters.

Deadline looms

The presidential election was rescheduled for December after a previous attempt to hold a vote in July failed because only two candidacies were submitted - and both were deemed invalid.

So far, two candidates have submitted applications to run for the top post of the country's newly formed electoral body, known as ANIE, according to its French-language acronym.

The deadline to submit applications is midnight local time (23.00 GMT) on Saturday, AFP said.

'There are lots of people in the streets of Algiers ... still with the same determination'

- Said Salhi, Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights

Azzedine Mihoubi submitted his application to run for president on Wednesday, the news agency reported.

A former Bouteflika-era minister, Mihoubi's candidacy is backed by the Rassemblement national democratique (RND), which was one of the primary supporters of Bouteflika until the elder stateman's resignation.

The second confirmed candidate, Abdelkader Bengrina, submitted his application on Thursday, AFP said.

Also a former minister, Bengrina's application is backed by El-Bina, a small party that belongs to an Islamist coalition, AFP said.

Five other candidates have scheduled meetings with ANIE between now and the application deadline, the electoral body said.

Local media reports indicate that they include two Bouteflika-era prime ministers, Ali Benflis and Abdelmadjid Tebboune, AFP reported.