Yemen president calls it a day

2011-02-02 19:17

Sana'a - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, eyeing protests that threaten to topple Egypt's long-time ruler, indicated on Wednesday he would leave office when his current term ends in 2013, after three decades in power.

Saleh, a key US ally against al-Qaeda, also vowed not to pass on the reins of government to his son and appealed to the opposition to call off protests as a large rally loomed.

"I present these concessions in the interests of the country. The interests of the country come before our personal interests," Saleh told his parliament, Shoura Council and members of the military.

"No extension, no inheritance, no resetting the clock," he said, making reference to ruling party proposals on term limits that had been seen as designed to enable him to run again.

The move was Saleh's boldest gambit yet to stave off anti-government turmoil spreading in the Arab world as he tried to avert any showdown with the opposition that could risk drawing people into the streets in deeply impoverished Yemen.

Saleh's remarks came a day before a planned large opposition rally, dubbed a "Day of Rage", seen as a barometer of the size and strength of the Yemeni people's will to follow Egyptians and Tunisians in demanding a change of government.

"I call on the opposition to freeze all planned protests, rallies and sit-ins," Saleh said. "I call on the opposition after this initiative to come and form a national unity government in spite of the ruling party majority. We will not allow chaos. We will not allow destruction."

Failed state

Yemen, already slipping toward becoming a failed state, is trying to fight a resurgent al-Qaeda branch, cement peace with Shi'ite rebels in the north and quell separatism in the south, all in the face of crushing poverty. One third of Yemenis suffer from chronic hunger.

"I think it is very significant," Dubai-based security analyst Theodore Karasik said of the move. "What they are doing in Yemen is trying to not have what happened in Egypt."

"I don't know if it will be enough to satisfy people. It may try to heal some of the cleavages between for example the southern secessionist movement and Sana'a, but is it going to be enough for everyone?"

The United States leans heavily on Saleh to help combat al-Qaeda's regional Yemen-based arm that also targets neighbouring top oil exporter Saudi Arabia. More instability could mean significant political and security risk for the Gulf region.

Yemen's biggest opposition party welcomed the initiative but said on Thursday's rally in the capital Sana'a would still go ahead. The rally's size and mood will offer the first glimpse of popular reaction to Saleh's concessions.

"We consider this initiative positive and we await the next concrete steps. As for our plan for a rally tomorrow, the plan stands and it will be organised and orderly," said Mohammed al-Saadi, undersecretary of the Islamist Islah [reform] party.

"This is a peaceful struggle through which the people can make their voices heard and express their aspirations."

Raise salaries

Saleh had already offered lesser concessions on presidential term limits and pledged to raise civil servants' and military salaries by around $47 a month, no small move in a country where about 40% of the population lives on less than $2 a day.

However, the pledges on Wednesday went much further.

Saleh promised to delay parliamentary elections due in April to conduct reforms to bring the opposition on board by persuading them the vote will be fair. The delay was not expected to last more than several months.

He also pledged to re-open voter registration in an apparent response to opposition complaints that around 1.5 million Yemenis had been unable to sign up. In the meantime, Saleh renewed an offer for a unity government with the opposition but gave no clues as to its composition.

Saleh also promised direct election of provincial and local governors, which would give Yemenis more say over local affairs, and put on hold all proposed constitutional changes, including on presidential term limits, pending talks with the opposition.

Yemen's current constitution would require Saleh to step down when his term ends in 2013, and opposition had feared the constitution would be amended to extend the time he could spend in office, as was done in 2004.

Members of Saleh's ruling party had riled the opposition in recent months with proposals for constitutional amendments to either lift the 2013 limit or impose fresh term limits of two terms of five to seven years but allow Saleh to run again.

The opposition tried to rally against lifting term limits in December, but failed to bring large numbers to the street.

Last week, however, a protest drew around 16 000 people to demand a change of government. Some called for Saleh to leave.

Read more on:    ali abdullah saleh  |  yemen
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

DA wants to empower fishing communities - Zille

DA leader Helen Zille says the party has a plan for harbours and small-scale fishing communities.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Nokia E7

Your mobile office Real-time emails with Mail for Exchange. Easy access to...

From R3499.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may find yourself putting in that extra effort on looking good and making an impression. ...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.