Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Blog

In Yemen’s long-awaited presidential election, Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi was voted the country’s next president, an unsurprising result for the election’s only candidate.

The election itself was marred with violence, both in the form of government coercion and separatist attacks, demonstrating the complexities of Yemen’s deep divisions, as well as the increasingly complex outcomes of the Arab uprisings of the past year.

The wave of protests that began over a year ago with the self-immolation of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi has now effectively forced four long-serving Arab autocrats from power, each under very different circumstances, with increasingly ambivalent after-effects.

In the case of Yemen, last year’s massive protests against 30-year president Ali Abdullah Saleh overlapped and reshaped the many existing conflicts in Yemen, including a sizable secessionist movement in the once-independent South Yemen, an on-going Houthi rebellion in the North, and the growing power and influence of Al Qaeda-affiliated groups.

The result was the forcible ouster of Saleh after a near-fatal fire-bombing of his office.  A GCC-mediated plan allowed vice-president Al-Hadi to assume power for a two-year interim period leading to a full and ostensibly free presidential and parliamentary election.

Many worry that the Saudi-mediated plan prioritizes stability – and the fight against Al Qaeda and secessionists – over real democratic change. The charge is a sensible one, especially considering Al-Hadi’s credentials as a long-serving regime official and veteran of counterinsurgency and population control, particularly in the volatile south.

Though combatting the growing influence of Al Qaeda is an important responsibility of the future Yemeni state, it’s certainly not what drove hundreds of thousands of Yemenis to the streets for some of the bloodiest protests in the Arab world to date.

Like Libya and Syria, and to a lesser extent Egypt and Tunisia, Yemen’s future remains highly uncertain, and will likely have far-ranging effects on the region for decades to come.

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