Amendment could make Yemen's Saleh life-president

AFP, Wednesday 29 Dec 2010

Yemen's parliament is discussing a draft amendment to the constitution under which President Ali Abdullah Saleh could be made life-president,

President Ali Abdullah Saleh
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh 8 December 2009. (Reuters)

Saleh's General People's Congress is discussing a proposed constitutional amendment that stipulates "cancelling the limit of two consecutive terms" for which a president can be elected, a member of the party told AFP.

If the GPC-dominated parliament passes the amendment, Saleh could become president for life because he "could reelect himself without limits." Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, was reelected in September 2006 for another seven-year term.

The proposed amendment will be submitted to a referendum, which will be held simultaneously with parliamentary elections on April 27, another GPC member said.

This initiative is likely to heighten already simmering tensions in Yemen, where the opposition has threatened to boycott the upcoming elections over an amendment of the electoral law which the parliament approved on December 11.

That amendment, originally proposed along with other political reforms in 2009, stated that the high electoral commission be composed of judges rather than delegates from parties represented in parliament, as was previously the case.

The constitutional amendment sparked an opposition sit-in on Wednesday outside parliament in Sanaa in which dozens of protesters held up banners reading: "No to rigged elections", "No to corruption" and "Yes to dialogue."

The mandate of the current parliament was extended by two years to April 2011 following the February 2009 agreement between the GPC and opposition parties to allow dialogue on political reform.

Reforms that were to be discussed included a shift from a presidential regime to a proportional representation parliamentary system and further decentralisation of government -- measures that have not been implemented.

The dialogue has stalled, however, as the committee formed for the purpose has been able to meet only once.

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