SANAA, Yemen — A day before a national vote that will mark the end of his presidency, Ali Abdullah Saleh signaled his hope to be an anomaly in the Arab Spring: a toppled autocrat who can preserve some degree of influence in his nation’s governance.
“I say farewell to the authority,” Saleh said in a written statement read Monday by an anchor, Amal al-Sharamy, on Yemen state TV.
“I remain with you a citizen loyal to his homeland, his people, and his nation as you have known me through thick and thin,” al-Sharamy read as she began to weep. “I will perform my duty and my role in serving the country and its just causes” via the ruling party, Saleh said.
Yemenis are scheduled to formalize the selection of a new president Tuesday when they go to the polls, where there will be only one candidate, Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was nominated in a deal between the ruling party and formal opposition parties. The vote will serve as a mechanism to formally remove Saleh from power and strip him of his authority. Although it is hardly an exercise in democracy, it is an important moment for a nation that has been mired in conflict for more than a year, leaving its economy in tatters and many people dead or wounded.
The prospect of an end to the violence and a chance at rebuilding delighted many Yemenis and provoked a noticeable change of mood on the streets of Sanaa.
But there was also a recognition by many that the transition of power was merely a first step, with much work awaiting a nation that has increasingly come unraveled. One task ahead is the need to restore the ability to fight terrorism. Al-Qaida and its followers have taken advantage of the power vacuum in Yemen to spread their influence and control.
A high-ranking Yemeni official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject said that the United States will be playing a leading role in the restructuring of the armed forces after Hadi becomes president. John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, said there will be a series of visits from U.S. officials who will focus on a variety of issues, including military restructuring.