Reports to this effect have been floating around off and on for month, but an unnamed Western diplomat has told the DPA that President Ali Abdullah Saleh will never be returning to Yemen, and that he is planning to hand over power to his deputy, Major General Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi.
Saleh had already agreed that Hadi could be in charge of any negotiations on a transfer of power with the opposition, but had insisted he reserved the right to veto any deal. The US has been keen to see Hadi replace Saleh, believing he’d be a stronger military leader than the aging, unpopular dictator.
Major protesters were once again reported across Yemen today, with protesters continuing to demand that Saleh step down and allow an interim government to set up free elections. Though it seems Saleh may well be finally ready to step down, the elections part remains up in the air.
After spending most of the year shooting protesters in the capital city, Saleh’s regime has lost control of a number of provinces, including tribal provinces in the center of the country and the Houthi secessionist movement’s provinces in the far north. Though they are all still nominally part of Yemen, Major General Hadi could face taking power in a nation where much of the country is operating as independent mini-states and there is little support for full reunification.