Transitional periods are typically considered one of the hardest periods for the people of any country. These important transformations either lead to stability or lead to chaos, war and division. Yemenis have not yet forgotten the first transitional phase that followed its unification on May 22, 1990. It lasted for almost three years, and, building upon the concept of political pluralism, culminated with the country’s first parliamentary elections in April 1993. However the results of those elections eventually led to political crisis, which began in August 1993 and deteriorated for nine months until the eruption of the 1994 summer war.
At the outset of this conflict, former leader Ali Salem al-Beidh declared the secession of South Yemen — a move that went unrecognized by the international community. The war ended on July 7, 1994 and was followed by a period of successive difficulties. This was a result of the many inappropriate policies that were implemented by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. More importantly, Saleh lacked any serious and meaningful vision to rebuild the state’s institutions. He contented himself with mere formalities which gave the country a semblance of institutional presence. However, these institutions possessed no real autonomy and were in fact all subject to the direct authority and influence of the president, and later on, many of his relatives as well.
This power structure remained in place until Saleh relinquished his powers as president by approving the Gulf Initiative on November 23, 2011. This move averted a complete collapse of the state in the aftermath of the peaceful popular revolution. It ended with the president stepping down and the election of his vice president, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, to the presidency on February 21. Less than two decades after the first transitional period, Hadi’s election as president signals the beginning of the second such phase in the lives of many Yemenis.
More than three months after the current transitional period began — expected to last for two years — and six months after the formation of a national unity government, the situation generally remains murkier than it has been at any other point in time. This is despite the palpable progress that has been made in achieving the commitments for which President Hadi is responsible. Meanwhile, the government remains hostage to the old mechanisms that were put in place to run the country, the same ones that led to the stagnation, failure and collapse of Saleh’s regime. Over the past six months, Yemeni citizens have not witnessed the creation of any new governing mechanisms, nor have they seen the development of any innovative performance methods.
No fresh, modern approaches to administration have been developed, and the new government’s work has proven unable to keep up with the tremendous changes brought about by the peaceful, popular youth revolution. This revolution was supposed to have done away with the regime as a whole, along with the methods, policies and antiquated ideologies that led Yemen to where it is today; however all the traditional methods of action remain in place and lead to same, old results. This causes a great deal of frustration among the country’s youth, who have been hoping for a serious and new theoretical approach to governance in Yemen. They know full well that no government — regardless of its capabilities — will be able to save Yemen from its deep crisis in a short period of time. The youth are aware of these difficulties, but would still like to see some kind of fresh vision for the country and an improvement in the state’s performance. They would also like to see an abandonment of the traditional behavior that continues to drive the actions of the government and its ministers.
For Yemenis in general, and particularly the country’s youth, this situation is no longer acceptable. The Yemeni people know that the government’s primary mission is to improve the economy and the state’s administrative services. As per the Gulf Initiative, everything political should be left to President Hadi and those political groups that were direct signatories to the Initiative. The president and these forces should be tasked with preparing for the National Dialogue Conference, which will deal with all political and constitutional matters. Meanwhile the Military and Security Affairs Committee should be left responsible for the country’s security and stability.
As everyone knows, this committee works under the direct supervision of President Hadi, and has no links to the government. Had former President Saleh not refused to hand over the command of the Third Armored Brigade of the Presidential Guard to the officer appointed by President Hadi, the restructuring of the army and security forces in the first phase of the transitional period would have been fulfilled. If this had been the case, the situation could have been permanently moderated.
President Hadi has made considerable strides in restoring a general semblance of security and stability. However, the state’s authority is still violated on a daily basis, and no real progress has been made in reinforcing it. Hadi has helped the national dialogue progress by forming a liaison committee, whose assigned task should be completed by the end of the month.
Yemen currently seems to be in a race with its transitional phase. Many seem to think that what is being accomplished during this phase will be insufficient considering the formidable complications that permeate the Yemeni political scene. This is not to mention the grave economic collapse and the breakdown that the state’s administrations, security agencies and services have suffered.
While a two year transitional period will not be sufficient to restore economic prosperity and government services, it may be enough for progress to be made on the political and security fronts. This depends on the intentions of the political parties and whether they prove to be honorable or not. It is impossible to disassociate the insecurity in the country from the country’s political developments. Logic would dictate that the party ousted by the popular revolt sees its political future linked to the persistence of instability in the country, the continuation of political disputes and a degradation in living conditions. This is the only way in which it will be able to improve its image.
On the other hand, the revolutionary faction, now a partner in the country’s rule and the only one with the revolution’s goals still in mind, has not contributed much to bolstering President Hadi’s efforts in restoring security and stability. This is because persistent instability is also in their best interest: the Gulf Initiative stipulates that parliamentary elections are set to be held in February 2014. If none of the revolution’s goals are attained before then, especially those related to restoring the state’s authority, wise governance, the rule of law, modernizing administrations and laying the foundations to deal with thorny political issues, the youth must stand ready to retake the reigns of their revolution.