Saleh Unwelcome in Yemen's New Political Process

Published March 22nd, 2012 - 01:00 GMT
'Never wanna give you up'- Former President Ali Abduallah Saleh just doesn't know when to leave.
'Never wanna give you up'- Former President Ali Abduallah Saleh just doesn't know when to leave.

Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh has become a real nuisance to the new government, just months after he rubberstamped a GCC peace plan in which he agreed to relinquish power in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

In November last year, Saleh formally agreed to end his three-decade long rule and signed the GCC deal. Under the deal, Saleh would pass power to his deputy and will be granted immunity from prosecution.

Shortly after signing the deal in Riyadh, Saleh continued to act as a president; issuing decrees, and receiving and sending letters to international leaders.

Many observers thought Saleh would stop interfering when Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi was sworn in, but he has not stopped.

Saleh essentially has moved from being president of the country to president of the party that rules the country.

Many people call him "President of the president" since Hadi is still Saleh's deputy in the ruling party.

The opposition's Joint Meeting Parties said that Yemen could not be stable and no political settlement would be reached as long as Saleh remained the shadow president.

Abd Al Galeb Al Audaini, the spokesman of the Joint Meeting Parties, told Gulf News that Saleh was given immunity from prosecution in exchange for completely leaving the political process.

Double standards

"His work as a president of his party shows that his is not committed to his promise. He can't have his cake and eat it too. He can't be a political figure and at the same time have immunity."

Al Audaini urged the countries that brokered the peace initiative to step in and stop the former president from jeopardising the political order.

"The sponsors of the GCC initiative have an ethical duty to say no to any party that tries to impede the implementation of the initiative. Saleh was given the immunity to prevent more bloodshed in the country. People died in the streets to get rid of his regime and will not tolerate seeing him ruling Yemen again."

Observers in the country think that Saleh's meddling is a threat to the political settlement.

Nasser Taha Mustafa, a political analyst, told Gulf News that Saleh is determined to play a political role through his position as head of his party.

"He uses his position as head of the General Congress Party as a disguise for his new role. Saleh has labelled protesters as ‘thugs' and called the revolution a ‘conspiracy'."

Nasser says Saleh has not fully recovered from the shock that his people revolted against him.

Mohammad Al Daheri, a professor of political science at Sana'a university concurred and said Saleh is under the false impression that he is still president.

"Saleh can't believe he is no longer president and will continue making trouble for the new government unless the elected president carries out his duties and fills the vacuum."

Demands apology

According to media reports, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh threatened this week to summon his party's ministers if Prime Minister Mohammad Salem Basendowa did not apologise for labelling him as an "elderly person".

Saleh's party, the General People's Congress, and the former opposition's Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) are in a coalition government.

In its regular meeting on Tuesday, Saleh's party ministers refused to attend Cabinet. President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi intervened and convinced them to show up.

A statement by Saleh's office shrugged off media reports that Saleh ordered Hadi to arrest the prime minister or dismiss him over his recent remarks.

By Saeed Al Batati

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