Sana'a, Yemen - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh pledged on Sunday to carry out administrative reforms to empower municipalities to better respond to the people's needs after a wave of violent protests in the country's southern cities. Saleh said his government would propose constitutional amendments that would permit the election of district mayors who are, under the current system, appointed centrally.
"God willing, we are conducting constitutional amendments to give the local authority wider jurisdictions than what it has got now," the Yemeni leader said, quoted by the official Saba news agency.
"We are working on a constitutional amendment and establishing a local governance system with wider powers under which the district mayors would be elected," he said.
The agency said Saleh made the remarks during a meeting in Sana'a with dignitaries and tribal chiefs from the southern Lahj province, which saw most of the violent protests.
He said the reforms would produce municipal boards that are capable of reaching out to segments of the population that otherwise would not be serviced in an appropriate manner.
The move follows the violent protests that engulfed cities in three southern provinces in the past few weeks, leaving dozens of wounded protesters and security force members.
The protests were called by southern separatists, who claim the central government exercises discriminatory policies against southerners and want the south to secede.
North and South Yemen were united in 1990. In 1994, southern leaders announced the secession of the south and battled northern forces led by President Saleh for 10 weeks in a civil war that ended in their defeat.
The violence highlights the increasing discontent by the southerners and tensions between southern and northern Yemen, 15 years after the civil war.
Saleh told the dignitaries that the misconduct of officials was not restricted to the southern provinces.
"Wrongdoings take place, and these issues can be treated. The misconducts are not limited to Lahj, Aden, Abyan, Hadhramout, Shabwa, al-Mahra or Dalea, there are wrongdoings in all over Yemen," the Yemeni president said.
The local authorities, he said, bear the responsibility of dealing with the offences and exercising their functions within the borders of their administrative areas.