Yemen protests 311.
(photo credit: AP)
Against the backdrop of events taking place in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and his own
country, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told his parliament
Wednesday that he will not seek another term as president after 2013.
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who has been in power for some 30 years, spoke to the Yemeni
legislature a day before a scheduled "day of rage," similar to that
which took place in Egypt. He said that there would be "no extension, no
inheritance, no resetting the clock," alluding to fears that he would
attempt to stay in power or hand over the presidency to his son, Reuters
In a pro-democracy protest through the dusty streets of this Middle Eastern capital Saturday, marchers voiced hope that the revolution unfolding in the Arab world would soon reach them. "Yesterday, Tunisia. Today, Egypt. Tomorrow, Yemen," they shouted, trying to make their way to the Egyptian Embassy.
But the small march Saturday never reached its intended target. A line
of police stopped the protesters; then a loud, unruly crowd of
pro-government supporters emerged, and the two groups clashed. The
protesters soon vanished, their voices muffled by pro-government chants.
Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 32 years, was clearly rattled by the anarchy unfolding in Egypt.
Many among the Arab world's dispossessed hope for a domino effect that
could see more of the region's autocratic regimes fall, much like the
swift collapse of the Soviet Union.
"The situation in different Arab countries is similar, but there's a big
difference in the enthusiasm of the people in the streets as well as
the ability to go to the streets," said Aidroos al-Naqeeb, head of the
socialist bloc in Yemen's parliament.
"In Yemen, the living conditions are far worse than Egypt. The services
are far worse than Egypt," Naqeeb said. "The anger and resentment is
also larger than Egypt. But civil society is weaker here, and the
culture of popular opposition is far lesser here."
Unlike Egypt and Tunisia, impoverished Yemen has a small middle class and a large uneducated and illiterate population.
Yemen's internal security apparatus is at least as sophisticated and
deeply entrenched as Egypt's; the army is staunchly loyal to Saleh, as
are powerful tribes in a country where tribal allegiance is more
significant than national identity. The opposition, while strong in
numbers, is divided in its goals.
Ever since the reunification of north and south Yemen in 1990, Saleh has
marginalized political opposition groups and installed relatives and
allies to key political, military and internal security posts.
In a televised speech last week, the 64-year-old Saleh, a vital US ally
in the war on terror, denied that his son would succeed him. He also
raised the salaries of soldiers in an apparent effort to maintain their
loyalty, slashed income taxes in half and ordered price controls.
Saleh was speaking in the aftermath of a rally earlier this month in
which thousands of protesters took to the streets, with students and
human rights activists calling for the president to resign. But
political opposition leaders have emphasized reform rather than regime
change, calling on Saleh to honor a constitutionally mandated term limit
that would end his presidency in 2013.