By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
SANAA: President Ali Abdullah Saleh has urged opposition parties to take part in Yemen’s parliamentary elections in April and warned that a boycott would amount to “political suicide.”
The April 27 election will take place “in the presence of international observers,” said Saleh in a speech in the southern Hadramawt Province Monday.
“Those wishing to participate are welcome, and those who want to boycott have the right to do so. But they will be committing political suicide,” the president cautioned.
Saleh recently came under fire after Parliament voted Saturday to pass constitutional amendments which could see him rule for life. In power since 1978, Saleh was first elected in 1999 by direct universal suffrage for a term of seven years. His second term, which began in 2006 expires in 2013.
The constitutional vote sparked an opposition protest outside the Parliament Saturday. The constitutional amendments “will result in a complete break between the north and south and will destroy any hope of partnership” Ali Acshal, member of the Islamist Al-Islah (Reform) Party, warned.
In discussing the potential boycott of polls, Saleh singled out Al-Islah Party, Yemen’s second-largest after his own General People’s Congress (G.P.C.).
But he dismissed groups like the Unionist Nasserist Party and the Yemeni Socialist Party (Y.S.P.), which ruled a formerly independent South Yemen. The Y.S.P. was “finished in 1994” when northern troops crushed a southern secession bid, he said.
Sultan al-Atwani, secretary general of the Nasserist Party, said “the opposition has not yet made a decision on its participation in the polls, but the actions of the ruling party are pushing us to consider a boycott.”
Saleh accused the opposition of trying to “cause chaos throughout the past four years.” Those wanting to change the regime “can simply head for the polls,” he said.
On December 14, the G.P.C. said the election would go ahead in April regardless of any opposition boycott over the electoral law amendment.
The mandate of the current Parliament was extended by two years to April 2011 under a February 2009 deal between the G.P.C. and opposition parties to allow dialogue on political reform.
The dialogue has stalled and a special committee set up to oversee reform has met only once. – A.F.P.