Islamists poised to take power in post-Saleh Yemen
SANAA YEMEN’S Islamists are poised to take power, having emerged as the biggest winners of the struggle to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but so far they appear satisfied to share the victory with other parties.
The Islah (reform) Party, the largest opposition group, is a melting pot of Islamists, including the local version of Egypt’s Muslim Brothers and the Saudi-influenced Salafists, two groups which locked horns in Egyptian polls.
Its members range from activist Tawakkol Karman, who won the 2011 Nobel Peace prize, to cleric Abdel Majid Zendani, who is suspected by Washington of financing terrorism.
The party also includes tribal chiefs, notably Sheikh Hameed al-Ahmar, the son of the late Sheikh Abdullah, a former head of parliament.
Ten months of nationwide protests demanding an end to Saleh’s 33-year rule that culminated last month in his signing of a Gulf-brokered deal which will see him out of office in February.
“Our party does not adopt the slogan ‘Islam is the solution’ because the question of Islam and the state is not a problem in Yemen, which is Muslim and homogeneous,” said Mohammed Qahtan, the party’s political department head.
“Our priority is to combat poverty, restore stability and build the state,” he told AFP.
Founded in 1990, Islah emerged from the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1968 by Yemeni students returning from Cairo where they were influenced by the persecuted group. But it was a strong supporter of Saleh before switching to the opposition in 2005.
Its leader at the time of the partnership was the influential tribal dignitary Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar.
Allied tribes fought alongside government troops in the civil war against southern separatists in 1994.
His supporters hold sensitive posts in the administration, including education and military institutions.
“The Islah party will be the main force” in post- Saleh Yemen, said analyst Fares al-Saqqaf, director of the Centre for Future Studies in Sanaa.
He said the president’s party, the General People’s Congress (GPC), “will lose influence in favour of Islah, which will rise to power” in parliamentary elections stipulated in the powertransfer accord.
Islah is part of the opposition- led national unity government, sworn in last Saturday to manage the transition at a time when the army is divided, Al Qaeda militants well organised and the economy on the brink of collapse.