OP-ED

Can the Egyptian Scenario be Averted?

By Abdullah al-Salami

Perhaps President Ali Abdullah Saleh is actually taking the situation seriously this time.  Many observers during the past few days have noted that Yemen and its system are going the way of Tunis.

However, President Saleh may sense that his turn has now come after the fall of Mubarak, one of the most major players in the region. This feeling likely became an obsession after the storm that felled President Mubarak, and his assurances about the former Egyptian regime when he said, “Egypt is not Tunisia”.

The Yemeni system cannot hold to that same tired motto by saying “Yemen is not Tunis,” especially after the Egyptian regime of President Mubarak has descended into the abyss.

Just add Egypt to Tunisia to confirm the dissimilarity between them and Yemen, and the statement must become “Yemen is not Tunisia, but not Egypt as well as”. The formula is rendered far less convincing.

However, the determination to deny the similarities in the equation will not change anything. Therefore, there is no longer any option but to recognize that the Yemeni situation relates closely to what has happened in North Africa befor ethe departure of Ben Ali of Tunis

But much more so, especially if it is to look at the difference of the economic situation and standards of service, education, and health.

The unrest has been driven by the certainty that Yemen closely resembles Tunis and Egypt and the rulers of the Arab republics are of one system, and even non-republics as well, despite certain distinctions among each country.

President Saleh has dared to take steps, but still they are in the process of being advertised, not executed.

They came in the context of trying to stop the tsunami of Bou Azizi from outside Yemen’s borders, or rather to avoid the eruption of anger in Yemen from reaching the level of transformation which has been sought to overthrow system.

But it cannot be stopped before it touches the state and affects a significant change in the ruling system.

Who would have believed in Yemen, for example, that the much-respected head of the parliamentary bloc of the ruling party, Sultan Al-Barakani, would speak out?  He called not just to reform the office of the presidency, but to transform it from its roots.

This rare dissent would be met with the public denial by the president Saleh himself, who disavowed the sentiment totally.

But al-Barakani did not mean only to get the President’s satisfaction.  Who would have expected that the GPC would retract plans which only a month ago were impossible to stop.

These include al-Barakani’s bloc;s voting in parliament on the electoral law and the referendum with its new changes in procedure, and constitutional amendments affecting the article “112” of the Constitution, determining the period of the presidency.

The backtracking also relates to the progress towards parliamentary elections, and the consequent consolidation of the rupture with the opposition bloc of the JMP.

Until the moment, it can be said theoretically that President Saleh, in light of what was announced last Wednesday at the joint meeting of both Parliament and Shura Councils, expressed some things early compared with his Egyptian counterpart in response to popular unrest.

This was meant to ward off an existential threat which is meant to stave off comparisons the Tunisian scenario on Yemen.  But in order to judge the effectiveness of this step, one must first reflect on whether the pulse of the street was taken,

But as the concessions did not go come close to reaching the height of the demands, and in no way exceeded them, the response of political elites will not change a thing.

Then, in the event of an almost complete agreement over the contents of the initiative of President Saleh among the various parties, this may not even be enough progress to evade the Tunisian scenario.

What are the guarantees which will satisfy the street’s expectations, and will slow the fever wave which we have seen accelerating change?

Given that the concessions clearly did not satisfy the street, we must wonder at the lifespan of the current policy. How long will it last — for a week, or month, or less?

Then, is there anything that President Saleh can do to face off a threat of such gravity and urgency?  Sure his statements will not be enough stave off popular anger.

These include “the resumption of the Quartet committee’s work, and of dialogue between the JMP and the GPC, and the freezing of the constitutional amendments, and the opening up of the electoral voting for those who have reached adulthood.”

but all these concessions and reforms do not definitively lead to the cessation of inheritance and the stopping of the clock?