Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Yemen’s President struggling for survival

By Nasser Arrabyee/15/02/2011

The Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has decided to open his office to listen to those who want him to step down.

“The President has decided to open his office in the Presidential Palace to listen closely to all groups for the interest of the nation,” said an official statement Tuesday.
The step came after young people demonstrations chanting “After Mubarak, oh Ali, after Mubarak, oh Ali” started to increase day by day.

The tribesmen were the first groups to come to the Presidential Palace. Since Saturday February 12th, 2011, President Saleh has been receiving tribal leaders from the areas around the capital Sana’a, mainly from his tribe, Hashed, the most influential tribe in Yemen.

The opposition coalition recanted to talk with the government on Monday February 14th, 2011, only one day after they accepted an initiative by President Saleh to resume dialogue and stop protests.

This quick and surprising development came after young people intensified anti-regime demonstrations in the capital Sana’a and outside Sana’a especially in the most educated and most populated province of Taiz, where rival demonstrations turned to violence injuring at least 8 people on Monday.

“We started day-and-night peaceful sit-ins in the Freedom Square (Saffer Station) on Sunday, and we will keep their until our demands are met,” Said Ghazi Al Same’e, one the leaders of the young people demonstrations in Taiz.

“We are not representing any party, we are from all segments of the society, our slogan is : no partisanship, it’s youth revolution.”

An opposition leader said Monday they refused the President Saleh’s initiative for resuming dialogue.

“We looked at it (Saleh’s initiative) as an attempt to rescue the regime not to rescue the nation,” Said Yasin Saeed Noman, the secretary general of the socialist party, the second largest opposition party after the Islamist party Islah, which leads the coalition.

“There is a deep national and political crisis produced by this regime, we should not make dialogue outside this crisis, the dialogue should be about changing the political and social regime.”
The opposition and President Saleh’s party failed to reach an agreement over political and electoral reforms and reached a deadlock last October, when the ruling party said it would go to April, 2011 polls even without the opposition.

The opposition refused elections without reforms and said it would boycott and take to streets. Anti- elections demonstrations started since then. These demonstrations intensified after the toppling of the two regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.

Although the opposition coalition has not yet officially demanded Saleh’s regime should be toppled in all those demonstrations, groups mainly from frustrated young people, inspired and emboldened by what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, say clearly Saleh must step down in their own limited but increasing demonstrations, and also in the bigger demonstrations called for and organized by the opposition coalition.

The opposition officially say they still want serious political and electoral reforms.
Last Sunday, February 13th, 2011, the opposition parties officially accepted an initiative by President Ali Abdullah Saleh for resuming dialogue.

But they said they would take to streets if this dialogue failed like the previous ones.
Less than 24 hours later, the opposition recanted to sit on negotiations table with President Saleh and his party.

They said in statement the initiative was only to rescue the regime from the crisis not to rescue the whole nation from collapsing into chaos.

A leader from the opposition coalition, which includes Islamist, Socialists, and Nasserites, said the reason behind such a recantation was “provocations” from the ruling party.

“ On the same day we accepted the initiative, the ruling party issued a provocative statement with Quran verses that can be understood that those who oppose the ruling party are Qafer (infidels),” said the opposition leader, who preferred not to be named because opportunity to reconcile is still standing.

“The other thing is the violence done by the thugs of the ruling party against the young people demonstrators.”

Earlier this month, president Saleh offered concessions in his initiative including not to run for office when his current term ends in 2013 and that his son would not succeed him.

In a press conference Sunday, February 13, 2011, the opposition said they are ready to negotiate with Saleh for rescuing the country not for rescuing his regime.

They said they would start their dialogue from the last point they reached before they stopped last October.

On February, 5th, 2011, the US President Barack Obama urged the Yemeni opposition parties to avoid provocative actions and to positively respond to President Saleh’s initiative for reconciliation.

On February 2nd, 2011, the President Saleh said , in his initiative on the eve of “Day of Rage” as dubbed by young people through social media, he would not stand for elections when his current term ends in 2013 and that his son would not succeed him.

He said the constitutional amendments, proposed by his party, would be frozen, and April parliamentary elections would be delayed.

In an exceptional meeting with the two chambers of the Parliament, Saleh called the opposition parties to stop demonstrations and come back to dialogue. Saleh’s call comes only one day before big demonstrations called for by both young people and opposition parties.

“I would present concessions after concessions for the interest of the homeland which comes before the personal interests,” Saleh said that exceptional meeting which was boycotted by the opposition parties.

“No extension, no inheritance, no resetting of the clock ,” he said.

The President Saleh said the dialogue should resume from the point they stopped, from the last step reached by his party and the opposition before they failed late last year.

The dialogue would resume from the 4-member committee, which includes two top officials from his party and two top officials from the coalition of the opposition parties.

Abdu Rabu Mansur Hadi, and Abdul Kareem Al Iryani, from the ruling party, and Abdul Wahab Al Ansi, from the Islamist party (Islah) and Yasin Saeed Noman from the Socialist party.
“I would approve what this committee would reach without stubbornness,” Saleh said.

But , in return, the opposition must suspend their demonstrations , rallies, sit-ins and marches, he said.

“We call the opposition for freezing their protests and rallies and sit-ins,” Saleh said.
He warned from violence, sabotage, riots and chaos.

“Every citizen has the right to have weapons to defend his properties, his house, and his family,” Saleh said.

“We do not want to destroy what we built over 49 years,” Saleh said in a reference to the age of the Republic which was proclaimed in 1962 after a revolution which overthrew the religious royal system.

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