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Showdown in Sana'a - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In this Saturday, March 5, 2011, file photo, anti-government protesters take shelter from the sun under their national flag during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana'a, Yemen. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, File)

In this Saturday, March 5, 2011, file photo, anti-government protesters take shelter from the sun under their national flag during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana’a, Yemen. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, File)

“The [people’s] dreams quickly turned into a dark nightmare…as elements of the rule of a single family appeared…it reminded them of the backward ruling family that they defeated…51 years ago.”

With that, Yemen’s President Hadi launched into a thinly-veiled attack on former President Saleh, in a statement delivered on the 51st anniversary of the September 26, 1962 North Yemeni revolution against the ruling Hamidaddin family.

Hadi’s statement was full of swipes at Saleh. He praised the mass uprising against Saleh in 2011, calling it a correction of the path of the 1962 revolution, and a revolution in its own right.

This was not part of the deal. Hadi was Saleh’s deputy since 1994, a southerner rewarded by Saleh for staying loyal during the 1994 civil war. He remained a largely powerless figure up until Saleh agreed to step down in 2011, after the intervention of the international community.

Saleh expected Hadi to allow him to continue to control events from the shadows, but, almost two years on, it seems that Hadi had other ideas. And Saleh does not like that one bit.

Hadi’s September 26 statement is only the latest round of tit for tat, barely disguised criticisms, with Hadi being more openly critical, and Saleh using his media to attack Hadi, whilst remaining fairly diplomatic himself.

In Hadi’s last major speech, delivered at a police training academy in August, he criticized those who attempt to “figure out a way of ruling again, and how to pass on rule to our sons, and how to make businesses abroad,” quite clearly referring to Saleh and his family. He also mentioned that he’d stopped payments to journalists that were paid in return for favorable media coverage, again an indirect reference to Saleh’s rule.

In return, Saleh warned Hadi that he should not bend over backwards to please anti-Saleh politicians, saying that Hadi was meant to be the “president of all Yemenis,” and that he was “excluding the GPC,” the General People’s Congress (GPC) is Saleh and Hadi’s party. He also added that there was no communication between the two.

However, Saleh-affiliated media have recently increased their attacks on Hadi. TV stations and newspapers linked to the former president roundly attacked Hadi following his latest statement, calling it “unfortunate,” as it did not meet the conciliatory tone that is supposedly needed in Yemen.

One newspaper, Al-Muntasaf, devoted its front page, and several pages inside, to an exposé of Hadi’s own attempts to plant his family members in influential positions—accusing him of hypocrisy in criticizing Saleh for keeping power within his family.

Of course, the strained relationship runs even deeper behind the scenes, with power plays on all sides, and Hadi privately accusing Saleh of being behind the sabotage of the country’s electricity grid, which has plunged the capital Sana’a into darkness over the last week.

The timing of the increase in rhetoric between the two is no coincidence, as it comes towards the end of the National Dialogue Conference, a months-long process that is supposed to bring the various different groups in Yemen together to agree to a roadmap for the future of the country.

The conclusions reached by the National Dialogue are proving to be increasingly problematic for Saleh, and it is looking more and more likely that Hadi’s ‘transitional’ period in power will be extended, to the opposition of Saleh and his allies. There is also talk of the National Dialogue delegates being transformed into a constitutional council, replacing the current parliament, which has long overrun its term.

In essence, the political machinations are moving further away from Saleh’s control, but he will not go without a fight. The attacks on Hadi are only set to increase, especially if, or when, it is announced that Hadi’s term will be extended. Along with the media attacks, there will most likely be real moves from Saleh’s supporters within the government and the army to cause problems.

It’s easy to forget that both men belong to the same party, the GPC looks to have a tumultuous future. Outside the GPC, other parties and groups, such as Al-Islah, Al-Hirak, and the Houthis will look to utilize the power struggle for their own gains. Things are already quite messy in Yemen, and they only look to be getting messier.

This article was originally published in The Majalla.

All views expressed in this blog post are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, The Majalla magazine.

Abubakr Al-Shamahi

Abubakr Al-Shamahi

Abubakr Al-Shamahi is a British–Yemeni freelance journalist and the editor of CommentMidEast.com, a platform for young people to write about the Arab world. He holds an MA in Near and Middle Eastern Studies from SOAS, University of London. Abubakr tweets at @abubakrabdullah.

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