The head of Algeria's Constitutional Council stepped down after weeks of facing the ire of protesters, state TV reported.

Students take part in a protest seeking the departure of the ruling elite in Algiers, Algeria. April 16, 2019.
Students take part in a protest seeking the departure of the ruling elite in Algiers, Algeria. April 16, 2019. (Reuters)

In yet more upheaval for Algeria since the ousting of long-time leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the controversial head of the country's Constitutional Council quit on Tuesday bowing to weeks of anger from protesters.

Pro-democracy protesters had called for the removal of Tayib Belaiz, saying he is part of a ruling elite they want to abolish.

Bouteflika stepped down on April 2 after weeks of mass protests for his 20-year rule to end. But his departure has failed to placate many Algerians who want to topple the old guard and its associates.

Belaiz submitted his resignation to Interim President Abdelkader Bensalah, state news agency APS reported, citing a statement from the council.

Meanwhile, Algeria's army chief Gaed Sala said the military was looking at all options to find a solution to end the country's political crisis as soon as possible.

In a speech read out on state TV, he urged protesters to avoid violence and gave formal orders to protect the demonstrators.

Salah said time was running out and Algeria could not afford further delays, adding that more steps would be taken to meet the protesters' demands

Belaiz's departure could herald that of other senior political figures who protesters want to see removed as mass protests entered the eighth week. 

Protesters want the removal of an elite that has governed Algeria since independence from France in 1962 and the prosecution of people they see as corrupt.

The old guard includes Bensalah, who was appointed interim president after Algeria's army chief declared Bouteflika unfit for office and said the military would back a transition period leading to a presidential election on July 4.

But protesters want radical change that will introduce sweeping political reforms in Algeria, an OPEC oil producer and a major supplier of natural gas to Europe.

No person has emerged as a possible contender to lead the country. 

Protesters have identified figures such as lawyer and activist Mustapha Bouchachi as their leaders. But it is still not clear what role he could play in politics.

'No to Bensala'

In Algiers, thousands of students streamed to the city centre on Tuesday calling for the resignation of Bensalah, witnesses said.

Shouting "No to Bensalah," the students waved Algerian flags as hundreds of riot police stood by. 

The protests, which began on February 22 have been largely peaceful. Thousands of students marched in other cities too such as Bouira, Boumerdes and Tizi Ouzou, according to witnesses.

"Our pressure will continue until all demands are met," said 25-year-old student Mourad Dimi. 

Last week, Salah said he expected to see members of the ruling elite close to Bouteflika prosecuted for corruption and said he would support a transition toward elections.

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

"The head of state and prime minister have no choice but to resign. We will not leave the streets before getting satisfactory responses," said student Djamel Daadi.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies