Yemen leader proposes drawing up new constitution

2011-03-10 10:54

Sanaa, Yemen – Yemen’s embattled president proposed today that the government draw up a new constitution guaranteeing the independence of the parliament and judiciary, but thousands of unsatisfied protesters poured into the streets after his speech to demand his ouster.

The demonstrators have set up protest camps in the capital and the cities of Aden and Taiz, saying they won’t leave until US-backed leader Ali Abdullah Saleh does.

Saleh, an ally in the Obama administration’s fight against al-Qaeda, has been making a series of concessions to head off a movement seen as one of the most serious threats to an Arab government inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Saleh told thousands of supporters gathered at a stadium in Sanaa that a new constitution would be drafted by the end of year establishing the separation of legislative and executive powers. The president currently controls all other branches of government.

He said he ordered the government to “fulfil the demands of the youth camping in Sanaa, Aden and Taiz and in other cities but without sit-ins or chaos”.

Shortly after Saleh finished his speech, some 4 000 people, mostly students, took to the streets and headed toward the main square in the Sanaa calling for his downfall.

Opposition leader Yassin Said Numan said Saleh’s initiative came too late, although opposition parties would study it.

“The president’s initiative has been overtaken by events and facts on the ground today, but if it came six months ago, the matter would be totally different,” he said.

Saleh told the gathering that he was aware that the opposition will reject his offer but he had to let the people know about it.

Saleh said the country would hold elections and form a government by early next year.

The government and the opposition agreed in 2008 to extend the authority of the current parliament until elections next month, but the sides are at loggerheads over the law that would govern that election. 

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