It seems that Yemenis will not be electing a new parliament on April 27 after all. March 10 was the official date for calling the elections. Nothing happened then and, according to the
Yemen Observer, the reason is that the electoral registers are not ready.
This technical problem effectively gets President Salih off the hook as far as blame for the delay is concerned. The elections were originally due in April 2009 but had been postponed for two years amid a boycott threat by opposition parties and widespread protests calling for reforms to guarantee a fraud-free vote.
In parallel with the electoral delay, Salih is offering a new constitution with a new era of parliamentary government, proportional representation, decentralisation, etc, etc.
John Brennan, President Obama's anti-terrorism adviser, has
welcomed this and called on the opposition to "respond constructively" – an approach that contrasts strongly with the US attitude towards Gaddafi in Libya. The US, of course, is still fixated to a large extent on al-Qaeda's activities in Yemen and using Salih to combat terrorism.
In Yemen itself, Salih's latest initiative may succeed in dividing his critics. Some appear reasonably statisfied with it, though others are sceptical – and perhaps rightly so. Although the proposals seem fine in principle, Salih is a slippery customer and his promises could easily turn out to be just another tactic to defuse the current crisis and prolong his stay in power.
Meanwhile, there are reports this morning of escalating violence in the Yemeni capital. Police attacked a protest camp with tear gas, water cannon and live bullets, killing at least one person and injuring many more.
Posted by Brian Whitaker, 12 March 2011