After weeks of protests by demonstrators demanding his immediate resignation, the beleaguered president of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh proposed plans to change the constitution and to move the ruling government into more of a parliamentary system.
The new constitution, Saleh said, would guarantee the separation of the legislative and executive branches of government.
Saleh declared he is offering “the transition from presidential system of government to parliamentary system of government, and to move all powers to the elected government by the end of 2011.”
In a live television broadcast, Saleh said a referendum will be held later this year on the proposals.
He described his proposals as a “new initiative to avoid sedition.”
These reforms, the president claimed, means that a government elected by the parliament would take control of the country's executive powers.
Saleh also promised to accelerate the decentralization of power in the country.
In his speech, Saleh also promised to protect anti-government demonstrators.
We have ordered the security forces to continue to provide protection for all the protesters, whether they are supporters of our legitimacy or from the opposition, he said.
The President has urged the opposition to cooperate with him on these reforms, however, opposition groups are unimpressed by the deal and said it is now too late for any kind of compromise.
Opposition spokesman Mohamed Qahtan rejected the president's initiative.
The demands on the street go beyond that and are bigger than that, he said.
Another opposition leader Mohammed al-Sabri said “The people will not accept this initiative,” according to The New York Times.
Saleh has been in power for 32 years and vows he will not step down until his current term expires in 2013. So far, almost three dozen Yemenis have died in protests against the government.
Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world, beset by high unemployment, few natural resources and a rapidly growing population.
For months protesters have demanded an end to official corruption and economic measures to relieve poverty. Saleh has increasingly responded to the unrest with violent force.
Another huge rally is planned for Friday.