Yemeni opposition figures hailed the formation of a National Council to lead the country through a political transition as the beginning of the end for President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s three decades in power.
“Yemen’s revolution was incomplete before the formation of the National Council,” Mohammed Dahiri, professor of political science at Sanaa University told Global Post.
“This ensures that the corrupt Saleh regime is coming to an end and has lost the legitimacy and support of the people.”
The 143-member elected council draws on a wide spectrum of Yemen’s opposition, from tribal leaders, youth protestors, the secessionist movement in south Yemen, military commanders and even former members of Saleh’s own ruling party.
The council will elect a president and executive body later this week with the aim of gradually taking control of Yemen’s state and working to gain international recognition as the legitimate representatives of the Yemeni people, much in the way of Libya’s National Transitional Council. The council also aims to unite Yemen’s fractured and disparate opposition, whose six-month campaign to oust Saleh had stalled as of late.
Muhammad Qahtan, spokesmen for the Joint Meeting Parties, Yemen’s largest opposition bloc, chaired a meeting at the Sanaa University on Wednesday announcing the new council.
“This is what Yemenis demanded all along. The council’s formation will speed up regime change in Yemen,” said Qahtan.
The Yemeni government criticized the move, saying it signaled the opposition’s withdrawal from the long standing proposal mediated by the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) for a peaceful transfer of power. Saleh has repeatedly signaled his agreement with the deal only to renege at the last minute.
“The opposition are closing the doors to any chance of a peaceful transfer of power in Yemen,” said Tarek Shami, spokesperson for the ruling General People’s Congress party.