President Saleh to snatch first Arab patent in democracy [Archives:2005/870/Opinion]

August 22 2005

By Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz al-Tarb
Was it coincidence pr timing that made President Saleh announce a surprise decision – declaring on the anniversary of his inauguration not o run for a new presidential term. Having been a president for 27 years, is he going to retain the chair or take it over after another president?

Analysts have now different opinions regarding President Saleh's new and brave decision. Some think it is a maneuver meant to make his allies pressurize him to stay. Others say it is a move to absorb dissatisfaction at his long stay in power. Such dissatisfaction is notable in many Arab countries and it is of such sentiment that President Saleh fears. Another opinion claims that the announcement is a move to manage the current situation which is colored with increased opposition and economic deterioration. An unlikely opinion says that President Saleh wanted to stand out in the communi9ty of Arab leaders, embarrass his fellow leaders and open a long closed door.

Anyhow, it is a courageous and clever tactic conveying a sense of sacrifice and intimacy with the common people. It shows that President Saleh has the desire to reshape the Yemeni reality in such a way as to fall in line with international obligations. As wisdom is originally from Yemen, President Saleh's move proves it and realizes the proverbial historical saying, “From Sana'a does come the new.”

The Arab history know nobody who abandoned power while he was powerful and strong except for Siwar al-Thahab. Will the Yemeni President break the rule and add his name to Siwar al-Thahab, Sudanese, who divorced power as soon as he captured it making a history that could not have been achieved by a century in power.

I don't know the direct and indirect reasons that led to such a brave decision. I don't' know whether it is a political tactic either. My acquaintances in Yemen's presidential community and prestigious statesmen and observers were more surprised than I was. An examination of the President's address which included the resignation announcement cannot draw a clear-cut final conclusion.

How do other Arab states look at us? Which states will be affected by the decision? How does the US think of it? will the US incorporate the decision in its efforts for accomplishing the democratic project, holding it as a living example to refute any Arab special-case claims.

Once outside the office, will President Saleh concentrate on reorganizing his party? Or will he be satisfied with leading the party and influencing the election of the coming President? Will he retreat into his home sitting to write his own diaries?

Will President Saleh revoke his decision? We know that in the wake of 1967 defeat, Abdulnasser resigned and crowds streamed into streets forcing him back to power. Will the Ruling Party, at the right moment, force demos for the same purpose?

Arabs have been waiting for such a move from any regime. We in Yemen have too. We paid much in the absence of democracy, transfer of power, development and human rights. We have become the laughing stock of the world. A country like Senegal with more difficult conditions, was able to bring in democracy and establish a transfer of power convention. This Senegalese ability, as some might maintain, may be by virtue of their being non-Arabs.

I would like to ask whether it is some sort of fate that Arabs have no transfer of power and have their presidents rule permanently to death. Is this in any way related to our culture, traditions, heritage, values, concepts, etc.? If so, changing our culture, I believe, would be much easier than confining our societies to such a harsh painful situation of no democracy and no transfer of power. Some may disagree and brand me as an extremist. However, we should ask why other peoples, thought not to have respectable culture, have excelled Arabs in terms of democracy, participation, and transfer of power?

This Middle East was the beacon of the World and the citadel of civilization. Who turned it into a desert unable to grow the sapling of democracy? And if it grows it doesn't yield fruits and if it yields such fruits are very bitter. Shouldn't we ponder on what is happening in Iraq?

We are perplexed. Nobody can hang the bell in the Arab World. Now, it is very much surprising that a leader wants to hang the bell. The mice are stunned for they have been deliberating thought a century how to hang the bell. Now they cannot understand why the cat willingly hangs the bell. Is the cat fed up with the mice's patience and helplessness?

The unanswered question may end up with a first patent in the field of democracy in the Arab World registered under the name of President Saleh. We yearn for his establishing the tradition of peaceful power transfer during our life, as he and his comrades reunified Yemen. Will that be possible in our life span?