A strange thing happened when Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government took one of their tried and true plays out of the playbook and detained Tawakui Karaman, a human rights activist leading the calls for Saleh’s ouster: it didn’t stop the protests.
Rather, the protests grew all the more vigorous, bolstered by the success enjoyed by protesters in Tunisia managing to oust their own dictator-for-life President Ben Ali, now living in exile in Saudi Arabia. While it seems there is still a long way to go for the student protesters to drive the US-backed Saleh into exile, it does seem to have sparked some reaction, and a promise from Saleh not to run for a third term in office.
Saleh even went so far as to insist the protesters “misunderstood” his government’s efforts at a constitutional amendment which would end the two-term limit on presidents and allow him, as head of the ruling party, to basically “re-elect” himself to as many terms as he wanted.
Now Saleh insists that when the current term in office ends in 2013, he will step down from power. Whether the promise will work or not, it is worth noting that Tunisia’s former president tried to make a similar promise not to run for reelection in the waning days of his administration.