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Following the Yemeni Spring   

Al Hayat - 23 February, 2012
Author: Abdullah Iskandar

Yesterday, the Yemenis cast their votes in the presidential elections for a two-year transitional phase. And while this process turned the page of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule, the pages of the Yemeni problems are still wide open before all the strong winds that hit the country during the last few years, and escalated due to the former president's management of the protests.

True, the election of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi as an interim president came as the result of a political settlement. But what is also true is that this settlement constituted the only exit from the domestic infighting whose signs started to emerge under Ali Saleh’s presidency, amid a total conviction among the influential sides – both in power and in the opposition – that this infighting will be catastrophic to them. Hence, the Gulf initiative and the extraordinary regional and international pressures emerged to facilitate the adoption of the non-suicide option by the two camps.

In that sense, the settlement and the elections were seen in the context of negative developments and were not the outcome of a positive inclination by the authority and the opposition, which were left with no choice but suicide. Despite that, the Yemenis were able to overcome the power crisis with the least damages possible, knowing that the human and material losses that affected the country were not negligible.

In parallel, calls were made to vote in favor of Hadi, especially by the opposition in the Joint Meeting Parties and the youth movement, not in the form of a democratic selection of a candidate who was able to gather support thanks to his program, but because he was the only candidate based on the settlement and in light of the wish to get rid of Ali Saleh’s regime. It was thus a “compulsory” voting and not a free one, which is why it carried a negative value rather than being the outcome of a democratic process.

Now, the greatest challenge facing the transitional authority is to transform these negative facets into action, via a realistic roadmap capable of deterring the political concerns in Yemen in light of major disputes between the parties and the regional, tribal and factions divisions, but also in light of security challenges imposed by the extremist factions, whether those affiliated with Al-Qaeda, the Salafis or the Houthis. There is also the threat of the South’s secession and the economic and developmental situation that has reached an unprecedented low.

The Yemeni spring managed to force Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave, though while eluding any accountability. Nonetheless, the tools of his authority are still in place and the new president – despite his belonging to the General People’s Congress party, in whose name his predecessor had governed – might attempt to establish balance among these tools and demand the establishment of a neutral state apparatus between the political sides. The man is known for enjoying a professional experience, not for being a political leader. Therefore, and while it is required during the transitional phase, such a step will impose additional burdens on the new authority, especially since the partisan, security, military and media apparatuses’ resistance will be much stronger than the wish to enforce a state of the law in Yemen.

The Yemeni spring ended a regime that lasted more than three wretched decades. However, it placed all the accumulations and the heavy burdens of that regime before the new authority, which is why in the post-Ali Abdullah Saleh phase Yemen will not be able to elude the fate of a failed state without the political and financial efforts of the sponsors of the settlement that ended his rule. Moreover, it seems critical that the latter sponsors immediately provide the new authority with the financial and political elements of strength to launch the missing development and secure the status of the new state, in light of a regional situation in which the tensions are escalating and the tools of domestic conflicts are multiplying.
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