Yemen’s next challenge

Early presidential elections are to be held in February in accordance with the Gulf Cooperation Council’s proposal aimed at ending the strife in Yemen.

The frustrating phase of uncertainty and instability spanning months finally ended when President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed the dotted line recently in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

As per the agreement, Saleh gets immunity from prosecution after quitting office for an interim setup that would hold elections within three months. While this is good news for many there is also wide ranging anger for the immunity provision. Besides, further killings in the north at the hands of the government forces have sparked further discontent and anger. Many are questioning the feasibility of the power transfer proposal when there has not been much change on the ground. It remains to be seen how the new ruling setup manages affairs until elections.

The opposition candidate Mohammad Salim Basindouh, a veteran politician and former foreign minister is to form and lead an interim government. The responsibility for holding the elections on time and in a free and transparent manner also falls on Basindouh. The test for Yemen’s opposition council, an alliance of various parties will come in forming the reconciliation interim government that is to also include pro Saleh ruling party’s members. It is hoped that further political developments are not shadowed with more violence. Already hundreds have died since protests started earlier this year.

Even now there is the danger of breakout of armed confrontation between the government forces and other factions —including the Houthi rebels and the southern secessionists. Furthermore, despite the killing of Yemeni cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki and other key Al Qaeda figures in airstrikes in the country, Al Qaeda in Yemen remains a potent threat. Dismissing this security challenge is not an option and neither is ignoring the implications of a weak political and administrative setup.

A Yemen with a cohesive political setup and strong economy is the one that can meet these challenges head on. Unless the country’s leadership is able to form a stable political environment it cannot focus on improving either the dismal economic situation in the country nor can it cement its internal divisions together or meet its security demands. To achieve this it is vital that all political factions, irrespective of affiliation work together to get the country back on track. Playing power politics at this time may only backfire. It is time to work hard and let the people decide their next batch of leaders through the ballot box.

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