The Yemen elections
Why this election-cum-referendum is important for the Yemenis is because it signifies an end to Saleh’s three-decade rule. And for them, that in itself marks a historical event despite Saleh’s remnants retaining key government positions and controlling the powerful security institutions.
Hadi also enjoys the support of the opposition groups that had decided not to field any other candidate, at least at this juncture. Hadi’s coming two-year term is also expected to usher in more polls, both parliamentary and presidential. So while the post-Saleh interim unity government rolls out another setup with transitional overtones, it will have the backing of the ballot. Reports from Yemen denote celebrations and enthusiasm as eager voters fully participated in voting in a new chapter in the country’s turbulent political arena.
For Yemen’s new government under Hadi, the hard part will start now. Socio-economic problems like poverty, unemployment, and lack of essential resources like water and food are looming large in the background, as are the security challenges.
It is not only Al-Qaeda that remains a potent threat but also two particularly thorny internal issues that continue to cast dark shadows on the country’s stability. The continuing discord with the Houthi rebels and the secessionists in the South are real threats and must be dealt with through dialogue. It is something Hadi plans on doing on forming his new government.
Even so, the new Yemeni president will have to maintain a fine balancing act in keeping contentions at bay within his government. Yemen remains a fiercely tribal society where loyalties and differences dominate political relations. A greater challenge may arise in the post-election scenario when the euphoria of Saleh’s exit settles down. This pertains to accountability and punishment of the former president, his relatives and allies. Despite the immunity granted to Saleh on the basis of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s deal, people have been demanding the trial of the former regime. Hadi will have to contend with that maturely and may have to replace the previous regime’s figures with new ones in government.
It may be better to move on and rebuild a Yemen that has for the past year suffered greatly because of the violent political instability. This will require civilian efforts as well, the main component of that being patience. The new government cannot be expected to wield a magic wand that will resolve all the issues within months or even a couple of years. But this does offer a golden opportunity to the government to join hands with the people to make sincere, result-oriented efforts and rebuild a nation.