Yemen's new president has been caretaker-leader for nearly a year, but is yet to step out of Ali Abdullah Saleh's shadow
Monday 20 February 2012
Yemen's incoming president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, is a long-serving deputy to Ali Abdullah Saleh who has been acting up in the leader's enforced absence over the past year. But, despite serving as vice president for the best part of two decades, Hadi is a man who most Yemenis know little about.
A former military commander from the south, Hadi, 66, stuck by Saleh during Yemen's north-south civil war in 1994. In recent months, with Saleh sidelined, it has fallen to him to oversee constitutional reform, restructure the country's fractured armed forces and pave the way for multiparty elections in 2014.
However, because he has been forced to operate for so long in Saleh's shadow, many doubt whether he possesses the political clout to break free from the influence of his former boss. A low turnout on Tuesday, as is widely predicted, could dent his legitimacy even further.
US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks refer to Hadi as a putative reformer, albeit one with little clout among Yemeni powerbrokers. "A reputed champion of reform, Mansour's position as vice president is largely ceremonial and does not lend him much influence with [government] decision makers," according to a 2004 cable.
"Although from the southern Abyan region, Mansour led the campaign against YSP [Yemeni socialist party] secessionists and served as minister of defence during the civil war. His post-unification appointment in 1994 is considered a reward for his services to the north," the cable said.
The cable also refers to a meeting with the US ambassador, Thomas Krajeski, at which Hadi told his American guest that "Yemen would require US help in reducing poverty, achieving economic and democratic reform, and attracting foreign investment."
Other cables referred to his strong support for the Syrian leadership in its standoff with Israel, and his deep suspicion of Eritrea, which fought a brief conflict with Yemen over the disputed Red Sea Hanish islands in 1995.
Eritrea, Hadi said, was a ""thawra" (revolution) rather than "dawla" (country). "They fight with everyone," he said, according to the cable.