Algeria: Hundreds protest against army chief's push for presidential vote in July
Students and teachers have taken to the streets of Algeria's capital to protest against the head of the country's military, as they continue to demand a complete overhaul of the political system.
"No elections, mafia gangs," the protesters shouted on Tuesday, as they marched through Algiers under a heavy police presence, AFP news agency reported.
The protest came as army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah called for a "serious, rational and constructive" dialogue and for "mutual concessions" in the country's political transition following the ouster of longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Salah said such a dialogue would allow Algerians to get out of this "relatively complex" stage and would pave "the way towards the next elections as soon as possible", the state-run Algeria Press Service reported.
The army chief has emerged as a leader after the resignation of Bouteflika, who stepped down in April following weeks of widespread protests against his attempt to run for a fifth term in office.
Salah, who had pushed for Bouteflika to be deposed under a seldom-used constitutional amendment before the ailing ex-president's ouster, has repeatedly insisted that elections are the best way forward for Algeria.
Presidential elections are scheduled for early July, but they have been rejected by protesters, who say that holding a vote would be inappropriate while corrupt state officials remain in power.
The protesters have accused Salah of ignoring their call for the country's ruling elite to relinquish control over the levers of power.
They have also pushed for the Algerian authorities to root out corruption, and called for members of Bouteflika's entourage to be held accountable.
So far, only two candidates have registered to run in the upcoming vote, AFP reported on Sunday.
The Constitutional Council said in a statement that it had received the files of two candidates, Abdelhakim Hamadi and Hamid Touahri, both unknown figures, the news agency said.
But Algerian media outlets have questioned whether the authorities would actually be able to hold elections as planned on 4 July.
"The election... will without any doubt be postponed or cancelled," said El Watan newspaper, as reported by AFP.
To be eligible, a candidate must be backed by 600 local councillors and lawmakers or 60,000 voters in more than half the country's regions, the news agency reported.
"There is little chance that these two [candidates] will successfully collect" the required signatures, El Watan said.