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Facing growing protests, Yemen’s president says he won’t seek another term

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Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, under opposition pressure to stand down, said on Wednesday he will freeze constitutional changes that would have seen him become president for life.

On the eve of a “day of rage” called by civil society and opposition leaders, Saleh told parliament he had also put off controversial plans for elections in April, and appealed for an end to street protests.

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“I will not extend my mandate and I am against hereditary rule,” said Saleh, who has been head of state of the Arab world’s poorest nation for decades but whose term is due to end in 2013.

In his address to parliament, which was boycotted by the opposition, Saleh announced the “freezing of constitutional amendments” and the postponement of elections scheduled for April.

Yemen, at the strategic southern tip of the Arabian peninsula, is wracked with conflict — including a separatist movement in the once-independent south, a Shiite rebellion in the north, and a growing presence of Al-Qaeda guerrillas.

Saleh’s pledge came a day after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 82, facing unprecedented mass protests to stand down immediately after 30 years in power, declared that he would not seek another term in office.

Tensions soared in Yemen after parliament, dominated by the president’s General People’s Congress, endorsed a draft constitutional amendment that, if approved, would have enabled Saleh to stay in office for life.

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Saleh’s critics also suspect him of grooming his eldest son Ahmed Saleh, who commands the Republican Guard, an elite unit of the Yemeni army, to succeed him.

Until last weekend, demonstrations had taken place on a nearly daily basis in the capital Sanaa, calling for an end to Saleh’s rule, and protest leaders have called for Thursday to be a “day of rage” all over the country.

Unimpressed by Saleh’s remarks, they said mass protests would go ahead.

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“Thursday’s demonstration will continue as scheduled,” said Mohammed Kahtan of the Islamist Al-Islah (Reform) party, while Mohammed al-Sabri of the Common Forum opposition alliance said Saleh’s call to halt protests was “unacceptable”.

Poverty is widespread in Yemen, with 45 percent of its 21.1 million people living on less than $2 (1.45 euros) a day, says the UN Development Programme on its website.

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In geopolitical terms, Yemen’s fate is important, given its position at the southern end of the Red Sea, across from the Horn of Africa — a critical and busy passageway for shipping between Asia and the West.

Facing growing protests among Yemenis since last month’s downfall of Tunisia’s president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the ongoing mass protests in Egypt, Saleh, who has already taken measures to try to soothe popular discontent, urged the government to provide Yemen’s unemployed youths with jobs.

On Monday, after increasing wages and reducing incomes taxes, he ordered the creation of a fund to employ university graduates and to extend social security coverage.

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Emulating the self-immolation in Tunisia that touched off the popular revolt there, four people have set themselves on fire in Yemen, most recently in the port city of Aden a week ago.

Saleh, re-elected to a seven-year mandate in September 2006, also renewed calls onto the opposition parties to resume dialogue aimed at forging a unity government.

The mandate of the current parliament was extended by two years to April under a February 2009 agreement between the General People’s Congress and opposition parties to allow dialogue on political reform.

But reform talks have stalled since a decision to hold legislative elections on April 27, without waiting for the dialogue process to run its course, and a special committee set up to oversee reform has met only once.

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Reforms on the table included a shift from a presidential regime to proportional representation in parliament and further decentralisation of government — both measures that have not been implemented.

This video is from the Associated Press, published Feb. 2, 2011.

With AFP.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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Anderson Cooper tears into Trump for lying about coronavirus death rate: ‘This is just ludicrous’

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On CNN Tuesday, anchor Anderson Cooper led his show with a searing indictment of President Donald Trump for his ongoing lies about his management of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cooper particularly took umbrage at Trump's claim, at the day's Rose Garden press conference, that "we have just about the lowest mortality rate" and only seem to have more cases because "we do tremendous testing. We have the best testing in the world."

"This is just ludicrous," said Cooper. "This is the president of the United States. More than 130,000 people dead in this country and he's continuing this ridiculous lie, it's nonsensical. It defies any belief. We shouldn't be surprised because this is what he does. This is one of president's favorite lies. The United States is not the best or close to it in deaths — it's the seventh-worst in the world. The testing doesn't discover them. According to Redfield and others, the cases we know about are probably far underestimating the actual spread of this virus."

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Texan who led neo-Nazi group guilty of ‘swatting’ Black church: report

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Federal authorities have received a conviction in case in a "swatting" case, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

"A founder and former leader of a neo-Nazi group has pleaded guilty to conspiring to place hoax phone calls targeting an African American church, a Cabinet official, journalists and others," the AP reported. "John C. Denton, 26, of Montgomery, Texas, faces up to five years in prison after entering a guilty plea Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria to conspiring to transmit threats."

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Experts cry foul on Trump for violating Hatch Act in anti-Biden speech

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President Donald Trump's China press conference in the Rose Garden on Tuesday swiftly devolved into a rally-style political attack on former Vice President Joe Biden.

His use of White House staffers for a political event drew immediate scrutiny, with commenters on social media suggesting it could run afoul of the Hatch Act — which prohibits most government employees from attending or participating in political events in their official capacity. Trump himself is not subject to this law, but any staff who helped him organize the event could be.

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