Yemen's not-so-temporary president


Presidential extension? 
Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi

Presidential contender? 
Ahmad Saleh

Following the uprising that led to the fall of President Saleh in Yemen, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi was "elected" to replace him.

Hadi's victory was scarcely surprising, since his name was the only one on the ballot papers. This was actually illegal, because Yemen's constitution states clearly (Article 107) that there must be at least two candidates, but at the time it was seen as a way of moving forward from the brink of civil war.

In any case, Hadi was supposed to be only a temporary president, steering the country through a two-year "transitional period".

Now, though, it appears that the transitional period – and Hadi's "temporary" presidency – will be extended. 

The transition agreement hammered out in 2011, mainly through the Gulf Cooperation Council, appears to set a two-year time limit on Hadi's presidency starting from the date of his inauguration on 27 February 2012. But the agreement also states that Hadi's presidential term will end with the inauguration of a new president "elected under the new constitution".

The problem here is that with the expiry of the two-year period little more than three months away, Yemen still does not have a new constitution and may not do so in time for elections next February.

Yesterday Jamal Benomar, the UN's special envoy to Yemen, told AFP that Hadi may stay in power for longer because the transition period does not officially end until "all its milestones are completed". 

AFP adds:

"Last month, Hadi said national dialogue talks aimed at drawing up a new constitution and preparing for elections would be resolved within days.

"The talks had been due to end on September 18, but they have been delayed by disagreements about the number of regions that will make up the future state.

"Benomar confirmed one of the main obstacles to the dialogue is 'the structure of the state (with) participants agreeing on the principle of a federal state but not on the number of provinces'.

"Once-independent southern Yemenis are demanding two entities in a federal state – one in the north and one in the south – while northerners want several regions."

Considering the extremely difficult circumstances in Yemen, Hadi has not been a bad president but the longer he stays in office beyond February, the more his legitimacy will be undermined – especially in the light of his dubious election in 2012.

Meanwhile, there's another spectre on the horizon: Ahmad Ali Saleh – eldest son of the ousted president. According to the National Yemen website, a petition is being organised, urging him to contest the next presidential election

This is a classic Saleh family tactic. During his 34 years in power, Ahmad's father often insisted that he did not really want to be president and whenever he offered to step down his supporters always demanded that he stay. But when the public began demanding that he go, Saleh proved extremely reluctant to do so.

Now we have the prospect of his son playing the same game – trying not to look hungry for power.

Before the uprising, of course, Saleh the father was generally believed to be grooming his son to succeed him. That fell apart when Saleh was ousted though his son – who had his own military forces in the shape of the Republican Guard – continued to cause trouble for a while.

Eventually, Hadi bundled him off to the United Arab Emirates as Yemen's ambassador there.
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Wednesday, 20 November 2013