An algerians woman holds a placards that reads, 'we need to disinfected the system' during a protest in Algiers, Algeria, Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Thousands of students, doctors, dentists and veterinarians have marched in the Algerian capital to demand that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step down. (AP Photo/Anis Belghoul)

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Thousands of Algerians are demonstrating in the major cities of the oil-rich North African country, demanding the resignation of ailing, 82-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

The number of protesters was much smaller than predicted by organizers, however, as rain appeared to dampen attendance on the fifth straight Friday since nationwide anti-Bouteflika protests began on Feb. 22.

Families joined professionals and students in the central squares of Algiers, the capital, holding signs reading "Get Out, Bouteflika" and "No Mandate Extension."

Bouteflika last week indefinitely postponed April's national election and overhauled the government. While he abandoned his bid for a fifth term in office, his simultaneous postponement of the election has critics worried that he intends to hold on to power indefinitely. He has been president since 1999.

Bouteflika, badly weakened by a 2013 stroke, has remained an enigma, with very few public appearances. The president returned earlier this month after two weeks in a Geneva hospital, but the exact state of his health is unclear.

Workers at Sonatrach, the national oil company whose executives are close to Bouteflika, held a symbolic sit-in Thursday in solidarity with the protests that span all sections of society.

New Prime Minister Nourredine Bedoui has promised to create a new cabinet within days to respond to the demands of Algeria's demonstrators. Yet, Bedoui is still struggling to form a government, with many potential candidates seeking to keep their distance from the unpopular president.

Algerians march with banners and flags during a protest in Algiers, Algeria, Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Thousands of students, doctors, dentists and veterinarians have marched in the Algerian capital to demand that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step down. (AP Photo/Anis Belghoul)
Algerians march with placards during a protest in Algiers, Algeria, Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Thousands of students, doctors, dentists and veterinarians have marched in the Algerian capital to demand that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step down. (AP Photo/Anis Belghoul)
An Algerian woman holds signs that reads, ''doctors against a fifth term', left, and 'for an Algeria in good health' during a protest in Algiers, Algeria, Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Thousands of students, doctors, dentists and veterinarians have marched in the Algerian capital to demand that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step down. (AP Photo/Anis Belghoul)
Algerians march with banners and flags during a protest in Algiers, Algeria, Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Thousands of students, doctors, dentists and veterinarians have marched in the Algerian capital to demand that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step down. (AP Photo/Anis Belghoul)
Algerians holds signs that read, 'we are all united', bottom right, during a protest in Algiers, Algeria, Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Thousands of students, doctors, dentists and veterinarians have marched in the Algerian capital to demand that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step down. (AP Photo/Anis Belghoul)
An algerians woman holds a placards that reads, 'we need to disinfected the system' during a protest in Algiers, Algeria, Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Thousands of students, doctors, dentists and veterinarians have marched in the Algerian capital to demand that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step down. (AP Photo/Anis Belghoul)