Yemenis voted Tuesday to instate their US-backed vice-president as the new head of state tasked with steering the country out of a crisis created by an anti-government uprising that has raged for a year.
The vote can hardly be called an election as Vice-President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is the only candidate. It is,however,a turning point for the impoverished Arab state,ending President Ali Abdullah Salehs 33-year authoritarian rule.
Saleh is the fourth ruler to lose power in the Arab Spring uprisings. But to the chagrin of many protesters,he will likely remain in Yemen,where nothing bars him from political activity. As part of a US-backed deal brokered by Yemens Gulf neighbours,Saleh is stepping down in exchange for a blanket immunity from prosecution. But the outgoing president,who over the years has built a strong web of tribal and family relations,could still hold considerable sway after Hadi is installed.
Saleh is now in the US for medical treatment after an attack on his palace in June left him badly burned,and hastened his descent from power. He is expected to return to Yemen after the vote. Still,he addressed Yemenis through a message read out on state TV late Monday,urging them to vote and praising what he said was a new breed of politicians who were born out of the crisis. He also held out the possibility of an ongoing public role for himself,possibly through his longtime ruling party. I bid farewell to authority, Saleh said. I will remain with you as a citizen loyal to his country,people and nation … and will continue to serve the country and its just issues, he added.