Massive protests erupt in Yemen to demand ouster of president

11:38, January 28, 2011      

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Protesters are seen on the streets of Sanaa, capital of Yemen, Jan. 27, 2011. Around 15,000 protesters took to streets in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Thursday, calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. (Xinhua/Yin Ke)
Around 15,000 protesters took to streets in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Thursday, calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"People want to change the regime, want the president to leave, " protesters uproared with pink belts wrapped around their heads, which symbolized freedom, waving pink flags together in the largest public rallies organized by the opposition parties in four areas in the capital.

The protesters are mainly university students, opposition party members and supporters, as well as some workers and the unemployed, mostly of whom complained about unemployment and poverty.

"We are sending our message today to the president and his government that we demand improving living conditions, combating corruption as well as political reform. We want better future for our children," a protester from the opposition Islamist Islah party told Xinhua.

"As a student in the university, I joined the protest today to call for the change, because the rich people here are becoming richer while the poor become poorer," another protester said.

Security sources in the Interior Ministry told Xinhua that the number of protesters in the four areas was more than 15,000.

At the same day, Yemeni Interior Minister Mutaher Rashad al- Masri on Thursday called on demonstrators to keep away from friction with security forces and to obey the laws.

"We do not need chaos and we will not allow something to happen as it harms the citizens and offends against the democracy," official Saba news agency quoted the minister as saying.

Abdul Rahman Bafadhl, the head of the parliamentary bloc of the opposition Islamic Islah part told Xinhua that there were many factors that could push hungry and discontent people into streets.

"I have no doubt that what happened in Tunisia would affect some other Arab countries as their leaders, who have been in power for more than 20 years and ruled with a complete absence of justice, spread of unemployment, lack of democracy and enlarging gap between wealthy and poor people," Bafadhl said.

"Yemen comes at the forefront of the Arab countries, which is likely to witness a large-scale unrest soon, especially after the ruling party unilaterally approved constitutional amendments which could turn Yemeni into dictatorship," he said.

Since the beginning of this year, tensions escalated between the opposition and ruling party after parliamentary members of the latter unilaterally approved constitutional amendments on Jan. 1, which could make Yemen's leader Ali Abdullah Saleh the country's president for life.

Some 165 parliamentary members of the ruling party's General people's Congress (GPC) voted in favor of the constitutional amendments and referred them to a special committee in the parliament to consider the articles which will be finally approved on March 1 according to the constitution.

The would-be amendments would eliminate the limited two consecutive presidential terms, and put the new presidential term for five years, in which president has the constitutional right to candidate himself for unlimited future terms, the ruling party's website said.

The opposition coalition then vowed to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections and called for protest against the ruling party's "unilaterally action."

Ali Saif Hassan, the head of the independent Yemeni Political Forum said that the popular protests here may not make any political change.

"Tunisia is a civil society, while Yemen is a divided tribal society and the opposition here is very weak, so there is no any civil coalition in Yemen that may lead these protests," he told Xinhua.

"Unlike Tunisia, Yemen is awash with more than 60,000 pieces of weapons, and if turmoil took place throughout the country, thousands of people would be tragically killed," he added.

Inspired by the anti government protests in Tunisia, hundreds of protesters went to the streets in Sanaa and other major cities over the past days, demanding the stepping down of their president Saleh, who has been in power for more than 30 years.

The 68-year-old President Saleh, who has been in power since 1978 announced on Sunday on the state TV that he would step down after his second presidential term expires in 2013.

"Yemen will not become another Tunisia," Saleh said. "We are a democratic republic, we have peacefully changed rulers and we call on opposition parties to take part in the dialogue with the ruling party before chaos takes place," he added.
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