At least 16 die after President Saleh’s TV appearance By: Shatha AL-Harazi
SANA’A, July 9 — At least 16 people died from ‘celebratory fire’ across Yemen after President Ali Abdullah Saleh appeared on TV for the first time since the assassination attempt against him on June 3.
Three died and at least 21 were injured in Ibb governorate as Saleh supporters fired weaponry in celebration of the president’s TV appearance. According to hospital sources, those who died suffered for hours before succumbing to their wounds.
Government sources had repeatedly claimed that Saleh would appear on TV prior to his actual appearance on Thursday July 7. The repeated failures to appear had fueled speculation that the president was dead or dying, as Saudi Arabia had withheld information regarding his condition. The lack of information has only heightened tensions in the political stalemate that has gripped Yemen since Saleh’s departure.
“Although I feel sorry to see the president so burnt – I can feel his pain and wounds – I still think it’s a horrible way to celebrate,” said an anti-government protester.
“He has had eight successful surgeries which means he fought to live. And in a very non-humanitarian way they [Saleh supporters] killed people randomly in less than two hours. It’s not fair at all.”
Saleh supporters and loyal military forces terrified people with heavy gunfire and random shooting into the air. According to the Women Sister’s Forum for Human Rights at least 200 people were injured by falling bullets. The forum condemned the continual usage of heavy and light weapons in celebrating Saleh’s appearance.
“They terrified us. I was on my way home when the shooting started. I didn’t yet know what had happened. I was running for my life but nowhere seemed safe. A bullet fell right in front of me. Why should we die for their celebrations?” said Nuha Ahmed, a resident of Sana’a.
Open hatred was seen among Saleh supporters. Although his appearance showed how badly Saleh had been injured, it confirmed that he was alive and gave support to the feeling that he would return and take revenge upon his opponents.
In his recorded televised appearance Saleh said that, “there is a wrong understanding of democracy.” Some Saleh supporters have interpreted this to mean that once he returns he will repair “his mistake” of giving too much freedom and democracy to Yemenis.
Article 116 of Yemen’s constitution states that: If the post of the President of the Republic becomes vacant or should the president become permanently disabled, the Vice President temporarily takes over the presidential functions for a period that does not exceed 60 days, during which new elections for the President of the Republic shall take place. If the posts of the President of the Republic and Vice President become vacant at the same time, the Presiding Board of the House shall temporarily take over the functions of the President. If the House of Representatives is under dissolution, the government shall replace the Presiding Board of the House in carrying out the functions of the Presidency, and in this case the election of the President of the Republic shall take place within a period that does not exceed sixty days from the first session of the new House of Representatives.
“Article 116 should be implemented as Saleh’s appearance made it clear that he is not able to return and perform his duties anytime soon,” said Ahmed Al-Zurqa, a political analyst. “He needs at least one year [to recover]. We saw that he has lost [use of] parts of his body, maybe like his hands or legs.”
According to Al-Zurqa, Saleh’s appearance on TV worked against him rather than for him, and the only reason that Article 116 can’t be implemented is that Yemen is lacking strong institutions. It would only be implemented if there was a strong parliament or a cohesive military.
Although President Saleh clearly knows Article 116, he still called for power sharing with the opposition “within the constitution” as a step towards rescuing the country.
“His [Saleh’s] appearance wasn’t his decision. He is a very confident person who cares about his appearance and his image. He would have decided to broadcast his voice, but not to be seen like this,” said Al-Zurqa.
“His sons might have put pressure on him to be televised to prove that he is alive and to gain sympathy for him. And most importantly, to stop any procedure to transfer power to the vice president.”