YEMEN. Yemen's parliament this week overwhelmingly approved a two-year delay in holding legislative elections scheduled for April to pave the way for political reforms and avert a threatened crisis.
The announcement on Thursday follows an agreement between President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ruling General People's Congress and the opposition, which had threatened to boycott the elections.
Two hundred of the 203 lawmakers present in the 301-member house voted to amend the constitution to allow for the election postponement, and three abstained, according to an AFP correspondent.
"The agreement took place following a suggestion from President Ali Abdullah Saleh who wanted the spare the country a political crisis," said Sultan Burkani, who heads the GPC's parliamentary bloc.
"The delay is necessary to proceed with political reforms, mainly the amendment of the electoral law," Burkani told AFP.
Elections in the impoverished Arabian peninsula state were due to be held on 27 April but the opposition had threatened to boycott the vote to press its calls for political reform.
A commission was set up following the vote to amend article 65 of the constitution to exceptionally extend the current six-year term of parliament by another two years.
The agreement was hammered out on Tuesday between the GPC and the opposition Common Forum which groups Al-Islah (Reform) Party, the main Islamist opposition, and the Yemeni Socialist Party, as well as other smaller factions.
But MP Ali Ghassal of Al-Islah said he feared the delay will only "postpone the crisis."
He said he hoped that all parties "would work seriously to achieve the political reforms" which aim for a move from a presidential to a parliamentary system, and to allow proportional vote in the legislative election.
In September, clashes broke out in the Yemeni capital between police and thousands of opposition supporters calling for a boycott of the polls.
The opposition holds 63 seats in parliament against 235 seats held by Saleh's GPC.
President Saleh won a seven-year term in a 2006 presidential election. He first took office as leader of the then North Yemen in 1978, and survived a 1994 civil war with the former communist south and Al Qaeda-inspired violence in Osama bin Laden's ancestral homeland.