News / Middle East

    Yemen's Noncompetitive Presidential Election Draws Wide Support

    Yemeni Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi addresses a meeting of the ruling General People's Congress party in Sana'a, December 7, 2011.
    Yemeni Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi addresses a meeting of the ruling General People's Congress party in Sana'a, December 7, 2011.

    As Yemen transitions towards democracy, it is organizing a presidential election with only one likely candidate: Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

    And that idea is drawing wide support from opposition parties and Yemen's diplomatic partners. For months, they have been pushing for the replacement of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who recently agreed to end his 33-year rule after months of protests against him.  

    Analysts say those with interests in Yemen's future have differing motives for backing an uncompetitive democratic process. The election is scheduled for February.

    'Neutral figure'

    In the view of Yemen's opposition coalition, known as the Joint Meeting Parties, Hadi is a neutral figure who played no role in Saleh's violent crackdown on opposition protesters.

    The 66-year old former army commander is a southerner who sided with President Saleh, a northerner, in a 1994 civil war and helped to defeat a southern rebellion. Hadi was rewarded with the vice presidency, but the post lacked influence until the president's political demise this year.

    Interview with Ibrahim Sharqieh:

    Ibrahim Sharqieh, deputy director of the Brookings Doha Center, said Hadi also benefited from a brief stint as acting president while Saleh received medical treatment in Riyadh for wounds suffered in a June bomb attack in Sana'a.

    "Hadi worked with the opposition closely and earned their trust," he said.

    Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signs a document agreeing to step down after a long-running uprising to oust him from 33 years in power in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 23, 2011.
    Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signs a document agreeing to step down after a long-running uprising to oust him from 33 years in power in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 23, 2011.

    GCC plan

    Saleh agreed last month to transfer his powers to Hadi as part of a Gulf Cooperation Council plan to ease the president from office. The Joint Meeting Parties also approved the transfer, which activated a constitutional law requiring a new president to be elected in 90 days.

    London-based Middle East analyst Ginny Hill of Chatham House said the parliamentary opposition wants to elect Hadi because it sees him as the best person to lead discussions of political reforms that Saleh long resisted.

    Interview with Ginny Hill:

    Hill said the opposition coalition believes the 90-day pre-election period is far too short for discussions about increasing parliamentary powers, abolishing the presidency and introducing a federal system of government.

    She said Yemeni opposition parties also realize there is not enough time before February to update years-old voter lists that exclude many people who have reached the voting age.

    Presidential term

    As part of the transition deal, the Joint Meeting Parties won a pledge from the ruling General People's Congress to limit Hadi's presidential term to two years.

    Interview with Robert Powell:

    Robert Powell, a Middle East expert at the Economist Intelligence Unit in New York, said both sides know they must use those two years to pass constitutional and electoral reforms. "You cannot really have a competitive election until all of these are in place," he said.

    Hadi also would seem to be the preferred Yemeni leader of Saudi Arabia and the United States. Both nations want a change in the presidency, but not in the government's structure or military institutions - especially in light of the world terror threat coming from al-Qaida backed elements within Yemen.

    Yemen's newly appointed Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa (front L) takes the oath of office at the Republican Palace in Sana'a, December 10, 2011.
    Yemen's newly appointed Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa (front L) takes the oath of office at the Republican Palace in Sana'a, December 10, 2011.

    Under the Gulf Arab plan, a transitional cabinet will govern Yemen until the election, with Saleh's party controlling half of the ministries including defense and opposition members in charge of the rest.

    "The United States does not trust the opposition to be an alternative to Saleh's regime," analyst Sharqieh said. "Washington is motivated by the fight against al-Qaida and so far, Saleh's regime proved itself to be the real ally in fighting al-Qaida in Yemen."

    Keeping Yemen stable

    Powell said the main aim of the United States and neighboring Gulf nations is to keep Yemen as stable as possible.

    "They want nothing of the sort of disorderly regime change that we saw in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya," he said. "What they want is something that remains within the Yemeni constitution."

    Still, many of the youth activists who led anti-Saleh protests are angry about the transition deal because they see it as keeping power in the hands of corrupt establishment politicians.

    Youth movement

    Hill of Chatham House said there is nothing to stop the youths from challenging Hadi by nominating their own presidential candidate. But she said the youth movement is diverse and has not been able to agree on a figurehead.

    Brookings expert Sharqieh said the youths also have the option of boycotting the election and continuing their street protests.

    Power struggle

    Hill said Hadi's expected win in February is of less importance than the fate of a long-running power struggle between Yemen's military and tribal commanders.

    The head of the powerful Hashid tribe, Sheikh Sadique al-Ahmar attends the funerals of tribesmen, who were killed in clashes with Yemeni security forces, in Sana'a, May 27, 2011.
    The head of the powerful Hashid tribe, Sheikh Sadique al-Ahmar attends the funerals of tribesmen, who were killed in clashes with Yemeni security forces, in Sana'a, May 27, 2011.

    Control of Sana'a is divided between the elite Republican Guard led by President Saleh's son Ahmed, troops loyal to anti-Saleh General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, and militiamen commanded by tribal chief Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar.

    Sharqieh said the key element of the GCC transition plan is the formation of a military commission to restructure the fractured security forces. Hadi appointed the 14-member panel of opposition and loyalist generals this month.

    EIU expert Powell said the commission will struggle to impose its decisions on Yemen's power brokers. He said it may have to appeal to Saudi Arabia, the West and the United Nations to support those decisions and provide financial incentives to bring rival generals on board.

    "The committee itself is not an answer, but it at least provides a way ahead to reach decisions. Implementation will be probably the most difficult task," Powell said.

    Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
    and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    Michael Lipin

    Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

    You May Like

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora