The United States State Department issued a statement on Friday cautioning the General People’s Congress, the ruling party aligned with the President, against a raft of constitutional amendments scheduled to be discussed on Saturday 1 January.
A parliamentary boycott, characterized by repeated demonstrations and sit-ins, is currently being held by the parliamentary opposition in protest of the ruling party’s decision to hold elections this April, over their objections.
Media outlets had suggested that the proposed changes would eliminate term limits on the presidency, and facilitate President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ability to remain in office. However, a ruling party source told the GPC that such a measure would only be offered in terms of a popular referendum, which would be up to vote at the same time as parliamentary elections in April.
The statement, published on the US Embassy in Sanaa’s website, stated, “The United States has seen reports regarding the apparent decision by Yemen’s ruling General People’s Conference to vote on a package of Constitutional reforms at a parliamentary session on Saturday, January 1.”
“We urgently call on all parties to delay parliamentary action and to return to the negotiating table to reach an agreement that will be welcomed by the Yemeni people as well as Yemen’s friends,” concluded the statement, issued by the State Department’s acting spokesman Mark Toner.
Thousands of opposition activists rallied in front of parliament on Saturday, yelling “no to inheritance, no to renewal,” referring to widespread fears that the president’s son will follow him in office, or else he will prolong his own mandate as head of state.
Sultan al-Atwani, a leader of the opposition Nasserite Unionist Party said at the protest, “We will not allow these new Imams to take our rights. You are standing on ground where the Yemeni people of old rejected the Imamate,” referring to the hereditary line of clerics which ruled Yemen before it became a republic.