Yemen is Getting on With it Without Saleh
Since Saleh’s departure for Oman on the evening of January 22, politicians from both sides of the political spectrum have expressed that political tensions have eased – both within Saleh’s General People’s Congress party, and between the GPC and opposition parties.
“The elections will definitely be smoother in terms of a reduction of problems, whether based on politics or security, because Saleh’s supporters will think a thousand times before causing problems in his absence,” said Dr. Mohammed Al-Maitami, coordinator for the Economic Crises Advisory Group.
He added that the decision for Yemen’s transition was not unanimous, as there are some people whose interests were affected by Saleh’s removal from power.
“It is true that his son and relatives continue to hold key positions in the country, but it was always a one-man show...now that he is temporarily out of the picture, I believe things will work out well,” he said, before adding that commitments on the part of the international community and youths in squares across the nation represent a balance of power.
Saleh’s hold on power for over three decades has made it nearly impossible for the country he has ruled to be managed without his interference and/or involvement. Set to be elected president on February 21, Abd Rabo Mansour Hadi has more than once expressed that he felt his hands were tied as a result of meddling by Saleh.
However, in a speech by Saleh prior to his departure, he promised that he would return as the head of the GPC, in time to show support for president-to-be Hadi.
“My ambition was to offer myself and to offer services for the sake of the country. Services have been provided, especially in the fields of development, national infrastructure, and oil, gas, and metal prospecting,” said Saleh in a televised speech on Sunday. He also said, “I call upon all Yemenis to rally around the vice president and to cooperate with him and the national consensus government...in the country’s interest, to restore and reform what was destroyed over 11 months. As for the years to come, the vice president will have his own platform and he now stands as the president of the future.”
The public’s sentiments regarding his departure were those of mixed feelings, especially since he asked the nation with a sad face to “forgive him” the night before leaving for medical treatment to USA by way of Oman.
“The president asked the people to forgive him...I am not sure we can, but if he gives us time by staying away we may consider it,” said a shopkeeper in Sam Mall on Sana’a’s Al-Dairy Street.
However, Saleh’s departure did not happen before the immunity law was passed - albeit with reservations held by many regarding who would escape possible prosecution. With guarantees that Yemeni politicians will not pursue him or other influential figures in his regime, Saleh now looks towards at least a month of medical care and recreation in the States.
«We believe that his absence from Yemen at this critical juncture will help facilitate a transition that completes the end of his rule, helps Yemen, and ultimately has a positive effect on the rights and dignity of the Yemeni people,» White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. He added that Saleh’s stay in the US will not be of an indefinite duration.
Political analyst and former president of SABA News Agency Nasr Taha Mustafa said that Yemenis’ happiness following the parliamentary endorsement of Saleh’s immunity was higher than when he signed the gulf initiative because “the endorsement truly ended this president’s rule and closed the door for the potential for civil war.”
Despite repeated statements by Saleh that he supports the new government, he has also said more than once that he will show the new government what “real opposition is like.”
“There is a legitimate concern that he may return to Yemen after Hadi becomes president in order to prove that the new government is a failure,” said Mustafa. “The old regime still has points of power and will most definitely use them to create trouble and tell Yemenis that his rule was the best they ever could ask for - exactly as he said in his speech on May 21, 2011, when he backed away from signing the gulf agreement.”
Several sources within the UN and diplomatic community also said that the possibility remains that Ahmed Ali Saleh, the president’s son and Commander of the Republican Guard, is considering running in future presidential elections, in what would be attempts to reclaim power he once thought would be passed on to him if it hadn’t been for the Arab Spring.
He will however, need to resign from his military post and join the GPC or another political party unless he wishes to run as an independent candidate.