Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ali Abdullah Saleh

Field Marshal Ali Abdullah Saleh (Arabic: علي عبدالله صالح‎; born 21 March 1942) is the first President of the Republic of Yemen. Saleh previously served as President of the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) from 1978 until 1990, at which time he assumed the office of chairman of the Presidential Council of a post-unification Yemen. He is the longest-serving president of Yemen, ruling since 1978. He will officially relinquish office on 23 December 2011, one month after he signed an agreement to step down in 30 days in favor of a transitional government.

Rise to power
Saleh was born in the town of Cameno, in the Al-Ahmar family — the ruling family of the Hashid tribal confederacy. Saleh is a Zaydi Shia Muslim. He is a "non-Hashimi" Zaydi (not a direct descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad's grandfather), and would not have been eligible to rule under the Zaydi Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen that ruled the country until 1962.

Saleh obtained less than an elementary school education. He joined the North Yemeni armed forces in 1958 and the North Yemen Military Academy in 1960, and became a corporal. Three years later, he was commissioned from the ranks as a second lieutenant. In 1977, the President of North Yemen, Ahmed bin Hussein al-Ghashmi, appointed him as military governor of Ta'izz.

After al-Ghashmi was assassinated on 24 June 1978, Saleh was appointed to be a member of the four-man provisional presidency council and deputy to the general staff commander. On 17 July 1978, Saleh was elected by the Parliament[citation needed] to be the President of the Yemen Arab Republic, chief of staff and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

On 10 August 1978, Saleh ordered the execution of 30 officers charged to be part of a conspiracy against his rule.

Saleh was promoted to colonel in 1979, elected the secretary-general of the General People's Congress party on 30 August 1982, and re-elected president of the Yemen Arab Republic in 1983.

The decline of the Soviet Union severely weakened the status of South Yemen, and, in 1990 the North and South agreed to unify after years of negotiations. The South accepted Saleh as President of the unified country, while Ali Salim al-Beidh served as the Vice President and a member of the Presidential Council.

Ali Abdullah Saleh was a long-time ally of Iraq's Saddam Hussein and supported Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. After Iraq lost the Gulf War, Yemeni workers were deported from Kuwait by the restored government.

In the 1993 parliamentary election, the first held after unification, Saleh's General People's Congress won 122 of 301 seats.

On 24 December 1997, Parliament approved Saleh's promotion to the rank of field marshal. He is currently the highest-ranking military officer in Yemen.

Saleh became Yemen's first directly-elected president in the 1999 presidential election, winning 96.2% of the vote. The only other candidate, Najeeb Qahtan Al-Sha'abi, was the son of Qahtan Muhammad al-Shaabi, a former President of South Yemen. Though a member of Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC) party, Najeeb ran as an independent.

After the 1999 elections the Parliament passed a law extending presidential terms from five to seven years, extending parliamentary terms from four to six years, and creating a 111-member, presidentially-appointed council of advisors with legislative power. This move prompted Freedom House to downgrade their rating of political freedom in Yemen from 5 to 6.

In July 2005, during the 27th anniversary celebrations of his presidency, Saleh announced that he would "not contest the [presidential] elections" in September 2006. He expressed hope that "all political parties – including the opposition and the General People's Congress – find young leaders to compete in the elections because we have to train ourselves in the practice of peaceful succession." However, in June 2006, Saleh changed his mind and accepted his party's nomination as the presidential candidate of the GPC, saying that when he initially decided not to contest the elections his aim was "to establish ground for a peaceful transfer of power", but that he was now bowing to the "popular pressure and appeals of the Yemeni people." Political analyst Ali Saif Hasan said he had been "sure [President Saleh] would run as a presidential candidate. His announcement in July 2005 – that he would not run – was exceptional and unusual." Mohammed al-Rubai, head of the opposition supreme council, said the president's decision "show[ed] that the president wasn’t serious in his earlier decision. I wish he hadn’t initially announced that he would step down. There was no need for such farce."

In the 2006 presidential election, held on 20 September Saleh won with 77.2% of the vote. His main rival, Faisal bin Shamlan, received 21.8%. Saleh was sworn in for another term on September 27.

In December 2005, Saleh stated in a nationally-televised broadcast that only his personal intervention had preempted a U.S. occupation of the southern port of Aden after the 2000 USS Cole bombing, stating "By chance, I happened to be down there. If I hadn’t been, Aden would have been occupied as there were eight U.S. warships at the entrance to the port." However, transcripts from the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee state that no other warships were in the vicinity at the time.

On 23 November 2011, Saleh flew to Riyadh in neighbouring Saudi Arabia to sign the Gulf Co-operation Council plan for political transition, which he had previously spurned. Upon signing the document, he agreed to legally transfer the office and powers of the presidency to his deputy, Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi.

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