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Profile: Yemen's new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi

Mr. Hadi is a relative unknown in Yemen, despite serving as former President Saleh's deputy for 17 years.

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The experience is likely to pay off as the US will likely continue to lean heavily on Hadi and the Yemeni military as they continue to pursue AQAP, whose largely ineffective attacks on Western targets have nevertheless raised significant concern in Washington. At his swearing-in ceremony on Saturday, Hadi pledged to continue fighting militants, calling it a “patriotic and religious duty.” 

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During the nation’s civil war, in which the south rebelled against Saleh's unification of Yemen, Hadi – a southerner – stayed loyal to the president and was appointed vice president several months later, in October 1994. Hadi’s ability to avoid the spotlight and any controversial public stances made him an attractive candidate to oversee the nation during its post-Saleh transition.

“I think being on the sideline benefited him because not many people could identify him with something bad or something so terribly wrong to the point that they could not support him,” says Khalid Al-Akwaa, director of the Center of Public Administration Development at Sanaa University. “He’s been around, but he has not been around.”

Originally from the south, Hadi may find difficulty winning over those in his birthplace as there is some criticism that he did not do enough to help the region as vice president. During much of Saleh’s rule, the south complained that it was too often neglected by politicians in Sanaa and a secessionist movement has taken root there.

Still, Hadi is likely to enjoy a small window of time in which he has the support of a majority of Yemenis, if for no other reason than he is not Saleh.

Overseeing a new constitution, military reform

Over the course of his two-year term, he will be tasked with overseeing the drafting of a new constitution, military reforms, and a referendum that will pave the way to competitive elections.

The question on many Yemenis’ minds now is: After so many years in the shadows, will their new president possess the necessary political will and strength to stop those from Saleh’s inner circle who still hold positions of power here from inhibiting the reform process?

Additionally, some Yemenis say he may struggle to make substantive changes because the nation has not produced a cohesive plan for how to address the nation’s problems.

“I’m not optimistic that a change will happen, because there is a lack of a national plan of what Yemen needs in the coming two years,” says Abdullah Bashir, publisher of Al-Jumhoor, a weekly newspaper in Sanaa.

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