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Yemen's Saleh agrees not to run again. Is that good enough for protesters?

Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared Wednesday that he would not seek reelection in 2013, but protesters plan to keep on demonstrating.

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And while Saleh's declaration appears to be one step in the direction of prodemocracy reforms, Yemen's opposition says that the president's announcement is too little, too late. They claimed that despite the attempt to quell discontent, Thursday's protests are scheduled to go on as planned

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Saleh will present his resignation in a way that is not serious, said Parliament member Ali Ashal who belongs to the leading Al Islah opposition party in a statement to the Monitor on Tuesday.

It will be “theatrics” like the “play of 2006,” when Saleh had announced that he would not run again for the presidency, but then withdrew because of so-called public pressure, Mr. Ashal continued.

And just as Egyptians are not content with the extent of President Hosni Mubarak’s conciliatory gestures, Ashal said that if Yemen’s president really wanted to revive Yemen’s political system, he would announce plans to neutralize Yemen’s military state and decentralize the power system in Yemen, which now is largely viewed to reside solely in the hands of the president.

Yemen Expert at Princeton University Gregory Johnsen agrees that whatever Saleh’s concessions are to the opposition, they are going to need to be big in order to initiate any real change.

“Certainly the opposition could use the events of the past few weeks to its advantage, but at the moment few trust the current government,” Mr. Johnsen wrote in an e-mail to the Monitor. “So the problem becomes: What can the government say or do to the appease those who believe it will break its pledge just as it has in the past,”

All sides are keen to avoid the sort of mass chaos that has struck Egypt during recent weeks. In Yemen — where small arms proliferation is rampant — chaos could become violent very quickly.

Furthermore, Washington remains concerned about the instability in Yemen due to the presence of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the branch of the international terrorist group responsible for two major attack attempts against the US in a little over a year.

Saleh’s move isn’t the only attempt by an Arab leader to avoid mass similar to what has befallen Tunisia and Egypt. Yesterday, Jordanian King Abdullah announced that he would dissolve his cabinet after antigovernment protests broke out in his country as well.

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