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July 20, 2005


Nur al-Cubicle

Well, here's the opinion of Hammoud MOUNASSAR of Agence France Presse as printed yesterday in L'Orient-Le Jour:

Sunday's announcement by Yemeni head of state Ali Abdallah Saleh, in power for 27 years, that he will not seek a new term as president next year--a rare event in the Arab world--was welcomed with skepticism in Yemeni political circles.

The Popular General Congress (PGC), the ruling party, will hold its convention in November and will nominate Mr. Saleh as its "candidate for the September 2006 presidential elections", said Vice President Abd Rabbou Mansour Hadi, on the day following Mr. Saleh's announcement I shall not run for the presidency in the presidental elections of September 2006, announced Mr. Saleh during a ceremony marking the anniversary of his first election to the presidency in 1978, adding that he wished to a ensure a "peaceful transfer of power".

The unexpected announcement by Mr. Saleh was a surprise to political circles in Yemen, the only republic on the Arabian peninsula which has become, as part of the War on Terror, an ally of the United States, for whom democracy is the leitmotif of its Arab policy. This is all about a preemptive political campaign , said Ali al-Sarrari, chairman of the opposition Yemen Socialist Party, adding that President Saleh has announced his candidate for the next presidential election in which he will run unopposed, like in 1999. If he has really decided to give up power, then he will transer it to his son, Ahmed.

Despite repeated denials by the head of state, the rumor in Yemen is that Lt Col. Ahmed Ali Abdallah Saleh, 36, Commander of the Republican Guard and of the Special Anti-terrorism Forces, will suceed him as head of state.

Prudence is the watchword of the the al-Islah party, the prinicipal Islamist opposition movement in Yemen. The announcement came as a shock to all political factions, said Department of Political Affairs Spokesman Mohammed Qahtan. President Saleh was unequivocal and serious. All political and social factions should evaluate their reaction with a sense of responsibility, Qahtan added, remaining non-committal on whether or not the current head of state would run in the next presidential election.

Another opposition politician also believes that Mr. Saleh's announcment "is not final." In announcing his decision not to run, the President places the ball in the camp of the opposition, so that it can efficiently participate in the process for change, which the country needs, opines Mohammed Yahia Sabri, chairman of the Nassirite Political Union, a pan-Arab opposition party. While reserving comment on any "bridge burning" in the Yemeni political process, Sabri believes that the country is in need of a program of administrative reform and a change in mentality so that change may take place without a hitch.

Mr Saleh's decision is courageous, but there may be disastrous consequences in the absence of the right conditions for a peaceful transfer of of power, said Moufid, a student, who expressed an opinion commonly held by young Yemenis.

Elected in 1978, the former president of North Yemen, which he continued to control until its reunification with South Yemen in May 1990, Mr. Saleh has been head of state since his 1994 victory in the civil war against southern secessionists; he then won the first presidential election with univeral suffrage organized in September 1999.


Nur al-Cubicle

More Yemen "liberalization" news:

At least 10 people were killed and several wounded when security forces clashed with Yemeni demonstrators protesting a governmental decision to double the price of gasoline. Witnesses say that five protesters were killed in Zamar, 100 km south of the Yemeni capital and seven anti-riot police were injured. Another five protesters were killed in al-Dali, 250 south of Sanaa. Five more demonstrators were wounded in clashes with police in Demth, 200 south of the capital. An undetermined number of people were killed or wounded in several quarters of Sanaa, where clashes also took place.

The Army was sent in to reinforce police as angry demonstrators filled the streets in Yemen's main cities. In Sanaa, demonstrators fired on the headquarters of the ruling party, Popular General Congress (PGC), as thousands of people swelled the streets to protest. Also in Sanaa, demonstrators attempted an assault on the the residence of Yemen's Vice President, Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, but were deterred by security guards who fired into the air and launched tear gas canisters.

The price of gasoline will double from 35 rials per litre (32 cents US) to 65 rials. Diesel fuel is increased from 17 rials (16 cents) to 45 rials per litre, more than three times the current price, following a decision by authorities to end subsidies for fuel.

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