Yemen MPs pass emergency law

2011-03-23 18:30

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Sana'a - Yemeni MPs on Wednesday voted in favour of a state of emergency declared by the president despite an appeal from youths at the forefront of anti-regime protests that it could lead to a new "massacre."

The opposition swiftly rejected the vote as "illegal" and fraudulent.

"What they had done to pass the state of emergency is fraud and we reject it," Abdul Razaq al-Hajri of the powerful Islamist opposition Al-Islah (Reform) party told AFP.

Parliamentary officials said more than 160 MPs out of 164 who attended a special session voted for the step, which the president announced on Friday, hours after regime loyalists gunned down 52 protesters near the university.

But Hajri said the turnout figure was fudged and that only 133 members attended.

To take effect, the emergency law bill needed the approval of a majority in parliament and a quorum of more than 50% was required for a vote.

The parliamentary opposition, independent MPs and members of embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh's own General People's Congress who have resigned, boycotted the session of Yemen's 301-seat parliament.

Before the vote, the protest movement warned of dire consequences.

"A vote in favour is equivalent to approving the massacre of the innocent," demonstrators camped at a square near Sanaa University since February 21 said in an appeal to the deputies.

Saleh, who has ruled for more than three decades but now faces an escalating campaign for his removal, announced the state of emergency just hours after regime loyalists gunned down 52 demonstrators near the university.

His regime has been hit by a wave of defections in the ranks of the military, among influential tribal chiefs, Muslim clerics and senior diplomats as well as within Saleh's party, especially since Friday's massacre.

Legitimate aspirations

Late on Tuesday, the president invited Yemen's youths spearheading the protests to take part in an "open, truthful and transparent dialogue away from narrow partisan interests, prioritising the country's interests".

Saleh said he "sympathises" with the youths' demands and their "legitimate aspirations", the state news agency Saba reported, quoting an official in the president's office.

The demonstrators, for whom the impact of the state of emergency vote on their vigil outside the university was not immediately clear, have called for fresh demonstrations after Muslim weekly prayers on Friday.

Some of them have proposed a march on the presidential palace, although such attempts in the past has resulted in bloodshed, a correspondent at their camp said.

While elements of the regular army, which has tanks posted around key installations in Sana'a, have vowed to protect the demonstrators, the elite Republican Guard loyal to Saleh has deployed tanks around the palace.

On Tuesday, an offer from Saleh to quit by January failed to appease the escalating opposition over the past two months.

Saleh, who had previously said he would stay in office until his term runs out in September 2013 but not run again, has offered to quit by January after a parliamentary poll, according to a senior official.

His regime has been hit by a wave of defections in the ranks of the military, among influential tribal chiefs, Muslim clerics and senior diplomats as well as within Saleh's own party.

Read more on:    ali abdullah saleh  |  yemen
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