Yemen’s constitutional amendments referred to Parliamentary special committee and opposition MPs say the steps are for extending President Saleh’s term and passing power to his son.
By Nasser Arrabyee/01/01/2010
The Yemen’s House of Representatives on Saturday referred a proposal for constitutional reforms by the ruling party to a special committee as the opposition MPs continued their sit-in at the gate of the House in protest over such amendments and other steps taken for holding April elections.
The opposition MPs say such steps were taken unilaterally by the ruling party.
In their sit-in on Saturday, they carried placards saying : No for forged elections, no for corruption, yes for dialogue.
The opposition coalition which includes mainly Islamists, Socialists, and Nasserites, refuse to go to April Parliamentary elections before doing political and electoral reforms. The opposition MPs have been organizing sit-ins inside and at the gate of the House since the ruling party said earlier last December it would go to April’s election even without the participation of main opposition parties.
The ruling party says the country would be in a constitutional vacuum if April elections were not held.
The protesting opposition MPs on Saturday’s sit-in carried also a placard saying : No for inheritance of power and ‘setting the counter to zero’. They obviously refer to the ruling party’s proposal for constitutional amendments related mainly to reducing the presidential term to five years instead of seven years as it is the case now.
They opposition believes that amending the constitutional article on the presidential term would allow President Saleh to have a new presidential term at the end of his current and last term on September 2013.
While opposition MPs were protesting at the gate of the house, the majority of the ruling party referred a proposal on the constitutional amendments to an ad hoc committee for study before being submitted for vote. More than 170 MPs, who were present in Saturday’s session, from the ruling party agreed on referring the proposed amendments to an ad hoc committee chaired by Hemyar Al Ahmar, vice speaker of the House.
The chairman of the parliamentary block of the ruling party Sultan Al Barakani, said, “ We initially approved the amendments and two months later we would vote on them.”
“Yemen is a sovereign country and it does not take instructions from other countries,” said Al Barakani commenting on the US call to Yemen’s ruling party and opposition parties to reach a consensus.
Earlier on Saturday, a US State Department official urged the Yemen political parties to delay vote on constitutional amendments and return to negotiating table for reaching an agreement welcomed by all Yemenis as well as friends of Yemen.
Last Wednesday, the Parliamentary majority of Yemen’s ruling party would vote next Saturday for new constitutional amendments for better political system.
The presidential term will be reduced to five years instead of current seven years according to the new amendments.
Women will be given 44 additional seats in the House of Representatives raising the number to 345 instead of the current 301 seats.
Decentralization by adopting local governance with wide powers will also be stipulated in the new amendments.
The decision to vote for the new constitutional amendments came after President Ali Abdullah Saleh had held a meeting with the State officials and leaders of his party in the Presidential Office in the capital Sana’a late on Wednesday.
Such constitutional amendments along with holding the parliamentary elections on time (next April) were the main topics of the exceptional meeting of President Saleh.
These developments came as the country’s main opposition parties escalated their threats to boycott the next April elections seeking political reforms first.
The opposition say the ruling party violated an agreement reached between them and the ruling party on February 2009 for making such political reforms.
The parties at the time agreed to postpone the parliamentary elections for two years from April 2009 to April 2011 after they amended a constitutional article to allow them to take the step of postponement.
The parties failed to reach any agreement on the political and elections reforms during the period from February 2009 until today.
Earlier this month, the ruling party declared it would go to April’s elections even without the main opposition parties, the coalition which includes the Islamists, Socialists, and Nasserite, locally known as the Joint Meeting Parties.
The majority of the ruling party in the House voted for amendments of the electoral law. It also voted for formation of a supreme committee of elections, made up of nine judges, rather than representatives of the parties, a step taken for the first time since Yemen started democracy in 1990.
It seems it’s not too late for the parties to reach a compromise which make them all participate in the next elections.
According to sources in the Presidential meeting of today Wednesday, the President Saleh asked some of his officials to contact with the opposition leaders for convincing them to participate in the elections.
The spokesman of the opposition coalition Mohammed Al Kubati said, however, the only thing that would make the opposition accept any talk or any dialogue with the ruling party is to cancel all steps taken without participation of the opposition like the vote for the amendments of the electoral law and formation of the elections committee.