SANA'A // Yemen's ruling party yesterday announced its backing for a constitutional amendment that would enable the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to pursue another seven-year term in office.
Mr Saleh's current term in office - his second - ends in 2013, and under law he is barred from seeking another term.
A leadership meeting yesterday of the General People's Congress (GPC), however, decided it would seek the constitutional changes required to overturn the law. Mr Saleh chaired the meeting, the al Motamar website of the ruling party reported.
The amendment, plus another to give women 44 seats in the legislature, focus on "political reforms relating to the legislation system and local governance", the website said. Both proposals are scheduled to go before the PGC-dominated parliament on Saturday for consideration. If the term-waiver amendment is approved, it would be subject to a referendum in April.
Sultan al Barakani, the head of the ruling bloc in parliament, said there is broad recognition in Yemen that Mr Saleh is the best person to run the country. "We tend to make [Saleh] life-president," Mr al Barakani told a local television station on Tuesday.
Mr Saleh previously served as president of North Yemen from 1978 until 1990, when he assumed office as president of a unified North and South Yemen.
The proposed amendment comes amid increasing tension between the GPC and the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), an opposition coalition of six parties that includes the Islamist Islah party.
The coalition says the ruling party violated a 2009 accord on political reforms when it voted for amendments on election law and formed an electoral commission earlier this month. In protest of the government's failure to discuss political reform in advance of election, it has already threatened to boycott parliamentary elections scheduled for next year.
The GPC and JMP agreed in February 2009 to postpone the parliamentary election for two years to allow dialogue on political reforms. But their efforts are so far deadlocked.