Transfer Of Power In Yemen – OpEd


By Mohieddin Sajedi

The prospects for signing a recent agreement between the Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and his opposition under the supervision of the United States and Saudi Arabia, are vague as the deal is surrounded by numerous challenges.

The first challenge is that part of the opposition who organized major rallies in big squares of the capital city, Sana’a, and other cities on Friday, November 25, to voice their protest at granting judicial immunity to the country’s president.

Demonstrators carried placards asserting that the Riyadh agreement has, in fact, been a Saudi-American deal.

Granting judicial immunity to Ali Abdullah Saleh, his family and close friends is not the only problem. [Based on the agreement] Saleh will remain president for 90 days to come, even if he is not physically present in the country.

According to the agreement, the legal power of the president will be delegated to his vice president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Ali Abdullah Saleh will remain an honorary president for 3 months without being able to challenge the vice president’s decisions.

The ruling National Congress Party and opposition parties will then have a week to draw up lists of their candidates for the establishment of a national unity government.

The bill granting judicial immunity to Saleh and his vice president will be forwarded to the parliament on Tuesday. After the bill is passed, the vice president will give the go-ahead for early presidential election to be held within 90 days, provided that Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi will be chosen president for two years.

The next stage will begin after the election and will take two years during which, a national dialogue will be underway about such important issues as the situation of southern parts of Yemen and Houthi tribe. This stage will end in presidential and parliamentary elections.

The Joint Meeting Front maintains that signing the power transfer agreement has been a major victory for the opposition and also believes that the revolution in Yemen has reached its foremost goal, which is to depose Saleh. By signing the agreement with Riyadh, they say the Front has saved Yemen from a big problem. The front is a combination of traditional parties with Muslim Brotherhood as the biggest stakeholder followed by Nasserists and Socialists. Some of them are previous elements of Saleh’s government.

The agreement allows Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave the stage while saving face. He has been given three concessions: judicial immunity, guarantees about the participation of the ruling party in the future government, and continued command of his son over the Republican Guard while his other relatives will remain in control of military and security centers.

In this way, the Yemeni regime practically remains intact and only the president is changed. This situation is similar to Egypt where recent developments have proven it to be ineffective.

Any kind of revolutionary change in Yemen will harm Saudi interests in the country. Meanwhile, maintaining the Saudi rule to fight the remaining elements of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is a major priority for Washington.

Undoubtedly, forcing Saleh to give up power and suffice to honorary presidency is a great development in Yemen which will take the country away from the brink of a possible civil war. From another angle, however, Saleh is ceding power according to his own conditions, not those of the Yemen’s revolutionary youth.

He had already indicated his willingness to remain president until the end of his term in 2013. After recognizing that this would be impossible, he has proposed power transfer through early presidential and parliamentary elections. In reality, however, the power will be transferred two years later; that is, on the same date that his term in office comes to an end.

Saleh’s stepbrother, who is in command of some army units and has joined revolutionaries, or Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, the chief of Yemeni tribes, will stay out of the power ring and can only provide advisory views without holding a post.

For the revolutionary youth, who are demonstrating in the main squares of provincial capital cities, the path to the next government only goes through the Joint Meeting Front. This contradictory situation dispels any hope in the full implementation of Riyadh agreement.

Saudis may try to convince this latter group to be satisfied with the ouster of Ali Abdollah Saleh from power.

Some opposition figures maintain that Saudis are doing their best to circumvent the Yemeni revolution and get the country back to where it stood before the uprising.

Ali Abdullah Saleh is happy that he was spared the fate of Gaddafi, Bin Ali, or Mubarak [former rulers of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt respectively] and could evade death, escaping the country, or trial at court. He will go to the United States for treatment (which will probably take the same 90 days which has been stipulated in the agreement). Thereafter, he will settle in a neighboring country of Yemen and sway influence through his National Congress Party.

Full implementation of Riyadh agreement will lead to division of power between Al-Islah Party (Yemen’s Muslim Brotherhood) and the ruling National Congress Party, the party which has ruled Yemen for many years after the unification of two Yemens in 1990.

Alhassan Ali, a Yemeni journalist, believes that the ongoing demonstrations in various cities of Yemen in opposition to Riyadh agreement are a major sign of the failure of the Saudi plan to end Yemen’s revolution.

He sees a relationship between this agreement and a report released by the fact-finding committee in Bahrain which accuses Manama of using excessive force, terrorizing people, destruction of mosques and torturing detainees. The journalist argues that both of them represent efforts by Washington to prevent loss of more cards in the region and rein in the popular revolutions.

Press TV

Press TV is a state funded news network owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Its headquarters are located in Tehran, Iran and seeks to counter a western view on news.

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