Source: AFP, 26/12/2010
ADEN, Yemen — Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Sunday set April 27 for parliamentary elections that will be held in the presence of international monitors, and also urged the opposition to take part.
On December 14, Saleh's ruling General People's Congress (GPC) said the poll would go ahead in April with or without an opposition boycott over an amendment to the electoral law.
"We accept foreign observers, and also reiterate our call to our brothers in the parties of the 'Common Front' to take an active part in the poll and not to quibble over trivia," Saleh said in a speech in the southern port of Aden.
The official Saba news agency quoted him as "unreservedly" inviting non-government groups "from Yemen and brotherly and friendly countries to monitor the election."
Parliament's approval on December 11 of an electoral law amendment sparked an opposition sit-in and charges that the GPC had violated a 2009 accord to open dialogue on political reforms.
The amendment, originally proposed along with other political reforms in 2009, was passed by a parliament heavily dominated by members and allies of Saleh's party.
It stipulated that the high electoral commission be composed of judges rather than delegates from parties represented in parliament, as was previously the case.
The opposition said that by passing the amendment unilaterally, Saleh's allies had "put an end to the national dialogue."
The mandate of the current parliament was extended by two years to April 2011 following the February 2009 agreement between the GPC and opposition parties to allow dialogue on political reform.
Reforms that were to be discussed included a shift from a presidential regime to a proportional representation parliamentary system and further decentralisation of government -- measures that have not been implemented.
The opposition, which includes the Islamist Al-Islah (Reform) Party, the Yemeni Socialist Party and other smaller factions, said the passing of the amendment was "a conspiracy" against the 2009 accord.
On Sunday, Al-Islah MP Insaf Mayyo accused Saleh of seeking to "put pressure on the 'Common Front'," by launching the GPC's electoral campaign.
The grouping "has a programme of street demonstrations in the provinces to reject all anti-constitutional and unilateral measures by the ruling party," Mayyo told AFP without going into further detail.