Yemen Prepares for Presidential Elections
Yemen is preparing for the February 21st Presidential elections part of the agreement proposed by the Gulf Cooperation Council (G.C.C.) that ousted former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and planned the transfer of power. The country begun a campaign to encourage Yemenis to vote for the coming elections. Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, has been endorsed by all parties represented in parliament and is the only candidate, which raised fears of a low turnout that would dent the legitimacy of the man expected to become President. Hadi will run Yemen for two years before parliamentary elections. During that time, a new constitution will be drafted and army forces will be restructured. Hadi said in his first television advertisement for his presidential election campaign, “I will work to move Yemen from the current situation to a new development stage, and I will adopt a strategy for implementing reforms to take Yemen to the threshold of the 21st century.” However, Hadi will have to face challenging issues, such a weak economic situation and claims for independence from separatists in southern Yemen. Moreover, the last year of political instability in the country allowed the Muslim Houthi rebels to expand their domain in north Yemen, while al-Qaeda expanded in the South. The Muslim Houthi rebels and al-Qaeda’s members are opposed to the Presidential elections.
Yesterday, Ali Saeed Obaid, the spokesperson of the Yemen Military Committee which was formed as part of a power transfer deal in November 2011 and now chaired by Hadi said that Yemen’s new leadership was willing to engage a dialogue with al-Qaeda. Obaid stated that the transitional government was ”offering al-Qaeda members a chance to be involved in the changes that are taking place in Yemen today,” if al-Qaeda would hand over the territories under its control around Abyan and Shabwa provinces. Hadi hopped that it would stop bloodshed and destruction in these areas and limit the spread of violence in other regions. There has not yet been any response from al-Qaeda, according to the military committee.
On Saturday, clashes broke out between members of Ansar al-Sharia, affiliate of al-Qaeda, and the military forces near the town of Zinjibar, capital of the Abyan province seized in May 2011. Four members of the Ansar al-Sharia and one soldier died. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are particularly concerned of the expansion of al-Qaeda, mostly now that they are closed to the second town of Yemen, Aden, which has an important port. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia fear for the security of the oil shipping routes through the Red Sea.