Once again, Yemen's Saleh appears to be reneging on deal to leave
Just days after Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to hand over power to his vice president in advance of early presidential elections, clashes broke out in the capitol city of Sanaa in anticipation of a power struggle to decide the fate of the country.
But a Saleh spokesman is now claiming that the slippery president has not given up his "constitutional duties" and remains in power. This makes the fourth time that Salah has agreed to step down only to reneg on the deal a few days later.
If the deal holds, Mr. Saleh would be the fourth dictator pushed from power this year by the Arab Spring uprisings.
But Mr. Saleh's spokesman, Ahmed al-Soufi, added further confusion to what exactly the agreement seeking to end the country's nine-month political crisis means, saying Friday that Mr. Saleh hasn't given up his "constitutional duties" and remains in power.
On Friday, tens of thousands of Yemenis returned to the streets across the country to reject the power-transfer deal and call for Mr. Saleh's trial for crimes ranging from corruption to lethal crackdowns on protests. Yemenis first took to the streets in late January, inspired by popular uprisings against dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, and have faced harsh police action since. Hundreds have been killed.
The crisis has created a security vacuum across the country, leading to clashes between armed tribesmen and government troops in a number of areas. In the restive south, Yemen's active al Qaeda branch has taken advantage of the vacuum to overrun entire towns.
It would be amusing if it weren't so tragic. Why anyone believes Saleh at this point is a mystery. The protestors have no illusions, however, which is why Saleh may be reneging once again. There is now a sizable military force backing the protestors and civil war, for all intents and purposes, has broken out. Giving up at this point would be tantamount to a death sentence for the dictator so he will try to hang on to power as long as he can.