Saturday’s announcement by the ruling General Peoples’ Congress (GPC) that President Ali Abdullah Saleh would be its candidate in upcoming presidential elections – despite earlier assurances to the contrary – came as little surprise, according to political analysts.
“I was sure he would run as a presidential candidate,” said Sana’a-based political analyst Ali Saif Hasan. “His announcement in July 2005 – that he wouldn’t run – was exceptional and unusual.”
Meanwhile, representatives of the broad coalition of opposition parties – which includes the Islamic Islah Party; the Socialist party; the Nasserist Unionist party; and the Ba'athist party, among others – said they were disappointed by Saleh’s reversal. “It shows that the president wasn’t serious in his earlier decision,” said Mohammed al-Rubai, head of the opposition supreme council. “I wish he hadn’t initially announced that he would step down. There was no need for such farce.”
Saleh reversed his decision at a massive rally in Sana’a organised recently by the GPC. “When I decided to stand down, my aim was to establish ground for a peaceful transfer of power,” he told tens of thousands of supporters. Saleh, president of unified Yemen since 1990, went on to say that he would “bow to the popular pressure and appeals of the Yemeni people” by accepting the nomination.
Since the 1990s, foreign governments and donor countries have considered Yemen to be one of the few Arab states taking concrete steps towards democratisation, an appraisal based on three successful parliamentary elections, held in 1993, 1997 and 2003. In the last contest, the ruling GPC won a landslide victory, clinching 226 out of a total of 301 elected seats.
Saleh, meanwhile, won the 1999 presidential election with a whopping 96.2 percent of the vote. His only challenger was Najib Qahtan al-Shaabi, an “independent” member of Saleh's party and son of the first president of the former South Yemen.
The opposition, for its part, has said it would also nominate a single presidential candidate, to be announced imminently.