Local News Political Analysis

Political Tensions Rise over Constitutional Amendments

The prime committee for the national dialogue in the opposition JMP coalition in a meeting yesterday called on Yemeni citizens to “prepare to pay for  struggles and to sacrifice all they have for the sake of the country,” warning the government and its security apparatus from any negative treatment of citizens and the violation of their rights.

Mr. Aidarous al-Nakib said that the current government is stronger than the imamate before the 26 September Revolution, accusing it of being “the one who is defunct in building the future of Yemen.”

Yemen’s opposition had called for protests, in a statement issued last Sunday, after the parliament, which is overwhelmingly dominated by the ruling party, dismissed its objections to constitutional changes that critics say will enable the Yemeni president to rule for life.

The opposition Joint Meetings party coalition called in an official statement for “mobilizing the people’s struggle” and “organizing protests… to mark the new year as the year of peaceful struggle until victory is achieved.”

The calls came after some 170 members of Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) party voted Saturday in favor of the amendments.  The day before, the United States State Department had voiced its objection to the move, rather advocating dialogue and reforms based on consensus among the major parties.

Ruling party spokespeople objected strongly to the American statement, calling it foreign interference in Yemeni affairs.”

Also, official sources dismissed claims about the constitutional measures, which would be further discussed on 1 March, then submitted to popular referendum in the upcoming April elections, which are currently being boycotted by the opposition.

The proposed constitutional amendments envision cancelling the limit of two consecutive terms for which the president can be elected and reducing the presidential term from its current seven years to five.  President Saleh’s current term expires in 2013 term seven years after his election in 2006.

The vote, attended by only two independent MPs who called for postponing it, sparked an opposition protest outside parliament on Saturday.

The Interior Ministry warned the opposition against holding “unauthorized protests or rallies,” on Wednesday, days after calls for mass protests.

In a statement posted on its website, the ministry said “unauthorized rallies aim to destabilize the public order and create chaos across the country,” adding it would take appropriate legal actions against the organizers of such rallies and would hold them responsible for the consequences.

President Saleh had mandated earlier that 44 additional seats be added to the parliament, all of which would be allotted to women, making the total number of seats 345.

The committee of the opposition announced today that in the second half of March it would hold a conference in order to prepare for political communications with the other parties along with opposition parties abroad, the Houthis, and NGOs to guarantee a wide participation in the National Dialogue.