President Ali Abdullah Saleh has called for early presidential elections a day after he made yet another promise to sign a deal to transfer power. His statement also comes a day after President Obama said that “President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power” in a speech about the US’s policy on the Middle East on Thursday.
Three weeks ago, Saleh had refused to sign a deal put together by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), whose members include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Under its terms, Saleh would appoint a prime minister from the opposition to head a transitional government, which would hold a presidential election after 60 days. Under the pact, Saleh, his family and aides would also be immune from prosecution.
However, it is unclear if such an early election might be mediated by the GCC or if Saleh is making an alternate proposal.
Al-Jazeera notes that Saleh’s reasons for refusing to sign the transfer of power proposals have been due to “matters of constitutional technicality.” But opposition leaders fear that Saleh is again stalling:
“If the president decides to sign on Sunday, nothing will stop him,” opposition spokesman Mohammed al-Sabri said. “We are sure that the president is playing games with time.”
Al-Sabri said the GCC must take a clear position on whether or not Saleh was in favour of the decision.
“They cannot go along with the president’s strategies to gain more time,” he said.
There are also fears that Saleh’s drawn-out delay of his exit from power could only be exacerbating the unrest in Yemen, says the BBC.
Demonstrations continue in Yemen today.
Yemen is among the poorest of Arab states. Over 150 people have been killed so far in protests in cities in the capital of Sana’a and in cities throughout the country. Under Saleh, Yemen has been a US ally in counterterrorism efforts but the unrest in the country has led to lapses in security against al-Qaeda with the army preoccupied in putting down the protests.
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