Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, facing growing demands that he step down, said Feb. 2 that he will drop constitutional changes that would allow him to be president for life. “No to hereditary rule and no to life presidency,” Saleh said during an emergency session of parliament ahead of a “day of rage” civil society groups and opposition leaders have called. Saleh, whose term is due to end in 2013, urged an opposition alliance known as the Common Forum to halt its street protests. Four people have set themselves on fire in protests in Yemen over the past weeks.
Saleh’s opponents accuse the 68-year-old president of grooming his eldest son Ahmed, who heads the Republican Guard, to succeed him. Parliament, dominated by his General People’s Congress (GPC), has already approved the draft constitutional amendment that would allow Saleh to remain in office for life.
Saleh, re-elected for a seven-year mandate in September 2006, announced in his address to parliament the “freezing of constitutional amendments.” The speech was boycotted by the opposition. (Middle East Online, Feb. 2)