Sanaa, Asharq Al-Awsat – Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh put forward a new political initiative to the opposition, offering to transfer his powers to an opposition-led caretaker government, in return for them ceding their demand that he immediately resign the presidency. Saleh put forward this offer as hundreds of thousands of Yemenis took part in anti-government protests throughout the country, calling on Saleh to step down.
Well informed political sources in Sanaa revealed that President Saleh held intense meetings with a number of prominent opposition leaders over the past 48 hours, particularly the Yemeni opposition Islah [Yemeni Congregation for Reform] party, with the aim of reaching a political settlement. The sources indicated that Saleh offered to cede his powers to a caretaker government jointly made up of the ruling General People’s Congress and the opposition parties, with this government being led by a figure nominated by the opposition, in return for Saleh being allowed to remain in his position as a figure-head until the end of his current presidential term in 2013. Saleh’s proposal also included Yemen’s government ministries being divided between the ruling party and the opposition, with his party retaining the ministries of defense and foreign affairs.
In the first official response to Saleh’s proposal, head of the opposition Yemeni Socialist Party’s parliamentary bloc, MP Eidarous al-Naqib, played down the importance of the presidential proposal. Al-Naqib told Asharq Al-Awsat that “during the previous efforts, there has been division over the issues of [President Saleh] stepping aside and surrendering his powers and authorities to the vice-president, so how can we agree to form a government and accept powers [whilst he remains in power].” Al-Naqib stressed that the dispute is over “the entire cake” so “why should we accept half the cake?”
Naqib also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “nobody can delude themselves about the demands of the Yemeni people, who are in the streets and public squares in their millions, demanding the departure of the regime.” He described Saleh’s offer as being “unacceptable” and called on the Yemeni president to step down immediately.
A group calling itself the Youth Revolution also issued a statement on Wednesday saying that it did not intent to end a sit-in taking place near Sanaa University until Saleh is removed from power.
The group issued a statement calling on “a temporary presidential council of five individuals known for experience and integrity” to be formed “to run the country for an interim period (of six months)”
Whilst parliamentary opposition spokesman Mohammed Qahtan, accused Saleh of carrying out political “maneuvers” in order to remain in power, telling Agence-France-Presse [AFP] that “there’s no choice for Saleh but to resign…the oppositions stance is tied to that of the protestors.” He added that the opposition intents to “escalate its civil peaceful movements until the regime falls.”