Yemen's president says he won't seek another term

Ahead of "day of rage," Saleh follows in Mubarak's footsteps tells parliament: "No extension, no inheritance, no resetting the clock."

Yemen protests 311 (photo credit: AP)
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.
Saleh, 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 reported.
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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.