|Thirteen demonstrators have reportedly been killed since the crisis began nearly a month ago [Reuters]|
Seven members of Yemen’s parliament have resigned from President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s ruling party to protest against what they described as government violence against demonstrators, the parliamentarians have said.
“The people must have the right to demonstrate peacefully,” Abdulaziz Jubari, a leading parliamentarian who has resigned, told Reuters news agency on Wednesday.
Jubari said the parliamentarians had sent a 10-point letter to Saleh with demands for immediate reform, including restructuring the army to make it more representative of Yemen’s complex society and to aid a transition to democracy.
Among those who resigned is tribal leader Abdo Bisher from the Sanaa region and two figures from southern Yemen.
Saleh still has around 240 members out of the 301-strong parliament, which the opposition says was a result of unfair elections and the use of state machinery to elect Saleh’s allies.
Early election urged
But there were signs of growing opposition to Saleh within his own cabinet with the tourism minister calling for early elections.
“The minister of tourism is saying early elections have to be held in September 2011, without Saleh running as a candidate,” Hashem Ahelbarra, Al Jazeera correspondent in the capital, Sanaa, said.
“He [tourism minister] said that Yemen immediately needs a parliamentary system that incorporates all the different voices and that a radical restructure of security agencies … is required.
“He thinks Saleh cannot weather the storm anymore, that Yemen is not immune to what is happening in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and that if nothing happens the impasse will further cripple the country.”
Our correspondent also said that the second-highest ranking official in the ministry of local administration has resigned over rampant corruption and the violent attacks on pro-democracy protesters.
On Wednesday, thousands streamed into a square in Sanaa trying to strengthen the hold of anti-government protesters after the president’s supporters tried to disperse them.
One person was killed and at least 12 injured in the clashes late on Tuesday near Sanaa University, medics said. A local human rights group gave a higher toll, saying two people were killed and 18 injured.
In the port city of al-Mukalla in eastern Yemen, thousands of protesters, many of them school students, marched through the streets, chanting: “The people want the downfall of the regime.”
Demonstrators overturned and set fire to a government car and threw stones at the police who fired tear gas and rubber bullets.
Medical officials at a local hospital said a 16-year-old boy was seriously injured when a tear gas canister struck his face.
In the port city of Aden, a 19-year-old man wounded last week died of his injuries on Wednesday, medics said. His death brought to 13 the number of demonstrators killed since the crisis began nearly a month ago.
The US-backed Saleh, in power for 32 years, has said he will step down after national elections are held in 2013. But a widening protest movement, inspired by successful uprising in Egypt and Tunisia, demands that he leave office now.
Saleh’s government was already weak before the protests erupted. It faces an al-Qaeda branch, a southern separatist movement and disaffected tribesmen around the country.