Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

Battling for Democracy


Battling for Democracy

Following months of violence and killing, Yemeni president promised to leave power. Since March this year, when Arab spring spread to Yemen, the long ruling Ali Abdullah Saleh has denied handing over the power to people. Domestic pressures and international calls have failed making him leave autocratic presidency in favor of a democratic regime in Yemen. Soon after Tunisia and Egypt were flamed by revolutionary demonstrations, Yemeni citizens got a ray of hope to launch their own movement.

Public protests turned violent when Yemeni forces loyal to Saleh opened fire on innocent civilians and the death toll continued rising. Despite intense pressures from all over Yemen to convince him leave power, he resisted and denied allegations of violent crackdown. As soon as his administration got divided over public demands and his maintenance of power, he made fake and false promises. Lower and middle class of Yemeni population stood against dictator and pushed him back.

Refusing to accept Yemeni public demands, Saleh was seriously injured and burnt by a rebellion attack on his palace in Sanaa some three months ago. Following his trip to Saudi Arabia, Yemeni protestors voiced happiness over his departure. However, he seemed too defiant to leave power peacefully.

During his absence, mediators and opposition groups sought to convince him to stay away and transfer power to his deputy – a way to launch the regional power transfer deal. Saleh declined and returned abruptly to Yemen late last month. His return came as his forces continued fighting dissidents loyal to General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar in Sanaa, with hundreds of people killed over last months. Both sides are backed by rival tribesmen.

In a fourth round of promises, Ali Abdullah Saleh made vague comments that he is willing to leave power in his first major speech since returning Yemen, but he gave no concrete plan for the future of the country.

But the vaguely worded pledge he issued Saturday to step aside appeared, a day later, to be just another feint. While he had seemed to be moving toward accepting a plan initially proposed in the spring by the Gulf Cooperation Council to cede power to a transitional government, two high-ranking Yemeni officials said Sunday that the country's foreign minister had traveled to the United Arab Emirates to offer the council a new plan. This one, they said, calls for Mr. Saleh to remain in office until elections next year.

In his speech, Saleh railed against the opposition forces, which he accused of being behind the chaos on the country. He also said they failed to cooperate with his deputy, who took over some of his duties while he was away.

He said the opposition groups are holders of a "dark and destructive project." He ridiculed the opposition claims that he plans to transfer power to a member of his family. "How many are the president's sons? How big is the president's family? How many brothers or grandchildren? How many of those are in power?" Saleh said.

Saleh's son Ahmed and several of the president's nephews control powerful military units, and Ahmed has long been seen as the heir apparent for the presidency. Saleh said he returned from Saudi Arabia with "an olive branch and a dove of peace" but said his opponents failed to seize or understand it. He also said that a major country had asked him to not to return to Yemen, a request he said he declined.

Yemen's opposition cast doubt that the embattled leader was serious. It was not the first time Saleh has expressed a willingness to step down amid eight months of mass protests demanding his ouster. Still, he has repeatedly refused to resign immediately and rejected a U.S.-backed deal for him to hand over his authority.

But faced with more than eight months of street protests demanding his ouster, Saleh said on Saturday he is ready to step down within days but would not hand over to his foes. "I don't want power and I will give it up in the coming days," the veteran leader said in a televised speech during which he launched a tirade against his opponents. Saleh, said it was "impossible to let them destroy the country," whereas there were "sincere men, whether they be military or civilian" who were capable of governing Yemen.

In an early reaction, Yemen's new Nobel Peace Prize winner and leading woman activist Tawakkul Karman said Saleh's latest apparent offer could not be trusted and that protests would continue. "We don't believe this man and if he wants to step down, okay, that belongs to him," she told Al-Jazeera television. "He has to hand over the power; he has to give the power that he has stolen to the revolution of people, the revolution rule. We don't believe him," Karman said. "We are continuing our peaceful revolution."

Blaming Saleh for recent violent response to Yemeni protestors, army dissidents who support the Yemeni revolution view Saleh's return as a prelude to civil war and predicted that chaos will prevail in the country. An influential dissident general, whose forces control many parts of the capital, had earlier warned that Mr. Saleh was propelling the country towards civil war and urged the United States, Yemen's Persian Gulf neighbors and the international community to stop him.

General Mohsen called Mr. Saleh ''ignorant and bloodthirsty'' and likened him to the Roman emperor Nero, burning down his own city. ''With his return, Yemen is experiencing sweeping chaos, and the harbingers of a crushing civil war which this ignorant man is determined to ignite,'' he said in the statement. He urged the international community to ''deter him, stop his irresponsible actions where he intends to ignite a civil war that would bring down the whole country and have repercussions on the whole region and on world peace''.

Resembling to any tyrannical regimes, Saleh's government is relying on police and military, pro-government propaganda and intimidation to beat back protesters. But the death toll and frustration are growing in Yemen.

However, to prove to totalitarian regimes that no autocratic systems will last long is, on itself, a victory for the millions of people who have been marching the streets in the Arab world since the beginning of this year. The protests, however, have led to greatly successful outcomes, could promote the idea that no undemocratic force can resist against public determination forever.

The totalitarian regimes will inevitably fall down if people get enough political awareness, acquire adequate determination to practice their democratic constitutional rights and adopt appropriate mechanisms to fight authoritarianism.

A glimpse at the historic annals clearly says how significant the public participation is to develop and expand democratic values and egalitarian approaches. The governing systems that try to deny the citizens their basic civil and political rights do usually rely on violent means to strictly monitor every single aspect of public life. But the final triumph has always been for pro-democracy movements.

Nasrudding Hemati is the permanent writer of Daily Outlook Afghanistan and Writes on National and International issues. He can be reached through mail@outlookafghanistan.com

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