Yemeni Voters Embrace Change, Show Desire to Remain United

Article Summary
The Feb. 21 elections in Yemen proved that the country is far more socially advanced than it has been given credit for, Sateh Noureddine writes. In choosing Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi as a two-year president to organize future elections, the country demonstrated its willingness to remain united and surpass some of its fellow Arab states.

The best thing about elections is that they become a tradition -- a recurring process that takes place on specific [and anticipated] dates. [The Feb. 21] presidential elections in Yemen, therefore, constitute a beautiful event and a happy ending to Yemen’s revolution. [The youth] will leave the streets  having been able to [change the course of their country] through a long and complex process fraught with both difficulties and miracles.

The real electoral battle in Yemen will not take place today. Today the people will rather vote to choose the only candidate, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, as a two-year president, so that he may manage the organization of parliamentary and municipal elections. These elections will then pave the way for presidential elections, which in turn will end the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his family, establish a new era of devolution of power, develop the state and modernize a society thought to be on the edge of a cliff. [This society], however, is now proving that it is more advanced than most of its Arab counterparts.

As Yemen voted, some chose to boycott, and others were still fighting. The overwhelming majority have been inspired by the youthful revolution and want to transmit its message -- through reason or necessity -- to the tribes and parties that still lean toward traditional distributions of power. [These traditional power structures] distributed authority based on Islamic criteria, although Islam left only superficial cultural, social and political legacies.

For a unified Yemen to be headed by a president from the South represents a giant leap forward for the country. At one point, these same political forces in the South stirred up thoughts of secession, while others fell into an abyss of terror, providing Al-Qaeda with safe havens. [The division between these forces] has resulted in a tacit form of collusion that threatens national unity. Even those boycotting the elections for political -- and not necessarily blindly extremist -- reasons see the country’s unity as a symbol necessary for its survival.

If compared with other Arab revolutions, the Yemeni experience -- which is currently being put to one of its main transitional tests -- is roughly on par with the Tunisian and Egyptian experiences, and ahead of Libya and Bahrain. And in comparison with the bloody events in Syria, [Yemen’s transitional process] looks refined and urbane. [Syria] should take the unique Yemeni scenario as an example. [It is not out of] coincidence or to insult Syria or its people that we make this comparison -- it is rather a suggestion made [to protect Syria from] the terrible civil war it is now falling into.

The Yemeni experience is neither ideal nor typical. It is, however, the best available to prevent those deluded Southern [dignitaries] and Al-Qaeda princes from invading Yemen. Voting is by definition an act that alleviates passions, and an element that contributes to ideas and thoughts that can allow a community to transition from disagreement and polarization to understanding and compromise.

This is only the beginning of the Yemeni journey. While the journey may be gradual, it will never stop.

Sateh Noureddine is a regular contributor to As-Safir.

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