SANAA, Yemen – The Yemeni president told parliament on Wednesday he will not seek another term in office or hand power to his son — an apparent reaction to protests in this impoverished nation that have been inspired by Tunisia's revolt and the turmoil in Egypt.
The U.S.-allied Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for nearly 32 years, spoke to lawmakers in both houses of the assembly on the eve of mass rallies that the opposition has called for Thursday in all Yemeni provinces.
The Tunisian Revolution is spreading and terrifying wannabe dictator's everywhere.
Of course this is still not enough for the Yemeni people
But that hasn't stopped critics of his rule from taking to the streets of the capital, Sanaa. In January, tens of thousands gathered in days of demonstrations, boldly calling for Saleh to step down — a red line that few dissenters had previously dared to cross here.
These mass protests have forced a number of concessions from Saleh.
Saleh ordered income taxes slashed in half and instructed his government to control prices. He deployed anti-riot police and soldiers to several key areas in Sanaa and its surroundings to prevent riots.
But the street protests, led by opposition members and youth activists, continued, adding to the threats to Yemen's stability.
They seem to use "stability" all the time when talking about keeping US supported dictators in the middle east. Stability sounds familiar. As in "Community, Identity, Stability." Oh yeah
In the parliament Wednesday, Saleh called upon the opposition to meet for a dialogue on political reforms and their demands.
Opposition spokesman Mohammed al-Sabri rejected the call for dialogue and expressed doubts about Saleh's pledge not to seek re-election. Al-Sabri said Saleh made a similar promise in 2006, but then failed to fulfill it, ran again and was re-elected.
If only the democrats had this kind of negotiating strategy instead of caving on demand. If we were rioting in the streets that'd probably change
The opposition is a broad specter of mainly leftist and Islamic parties — the most prominent being the Socialists, who governed south Yemen before the north and the south merged in 1990, and the influential fundamentalist Islamic Islah Party. U.S. considers one of Islah's leaders, Sheik Abdul-Majid al-Zindani, an al-Qaida-linked terrorist.
This is true not just in Yemen, but in any impoverished or totalitarian nation. The country usually moved far left providing average workers with new economic opportunities and increased political participation (think republican spain). Or the country moves far right and embraces reactionary nonsensical ideas (think fascist spain under franco).
"The calls for dialogue are not serious and are merely meant to be tranquilizers," al-Sabri told The Associated Press. He added that the opposition parties would meet later Wednesday to prepare an official response to Saleh's announcement.
If only we were smart enough to realize that about many of the things our politicians do are merely meant to be tranquilizers. Take for instance how every democrat supported EFCA in 2007 and then did a bait and switch once they got labor's GOTV and fundraising efforts in the '08 election. Or remember back when Obama wanted to renegotiate NAFTA. Or back when Obama was going to raise the payroll tax on high income earners to save social security.
We can never take politicians at their word. Even semi-decent ones like Obama.
If protests can bring down dictator's, they can have immense influence in a "democracy" like the US.