Yemenis went to the polls on Tuesday to vote in a preordained election that ushered Ali Abdullah Saleh out of power after 33 years. Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the only candidate on the ballot, billed the vote not as an election for the long-term but as a way to take a step forward after months of protests against Saleh’s rule. Hadi will be the head of a two-year transition period, in which the interim government will work to stabilize the country.
During that time, Hadi is expected to implement the deal that transferred Saleh from power, including overhauling the security forces and overseeing the creation of a committee that will write a new constitution. Even with the transition, Saleh’s family maintains control over key units within the military, leaving many to believe that the former president — currently receiving medical treatment in the U.S. — still wields considerable power over the country.
Yemenis wait to cast their votes at a polling station in Yemen on Tuesday.
Of utmost importance, Hadi will be responsible for pushing back al-Qaeda’s growing influence in Yemen since the uprising began over one year ago. For this, it is expected that the United States will play a leading role. According to John Brennan, President Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, American officials plan to visit Yemen a number of times and focus on a variety of issues, including military restructuring, to assist the new government in the fight against al-Qaeda.
While there are many unknowns in Yemen’s future, what’s happening now may just be an optimal outcome for both Yemenis and the U.S. considering the given difficult situation. Instead of rushing to vote for the make-up of a government as occurred in Egypt, Yemen’s government has bought itself time to work with the United States and stabilize the country. During that time as well, political parties can form, hammer-out their party platforms, and build their bases in readying for elections. As one of the most troubled countries in the Arab World, Saleh’s official transfer from power on Tuesday is a step in the right direction for Yemen.