Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in New York for medical treatment after agreeing to step down following months of protests, will return to vote in presidential polls, a member of his party and state media said Wednesday.
“He will return and the General People’s Congress party wants him back to attend and supervise the elections, and to peacefully hand power over,” Abdo al-Janadi, a member of Saleh’s GPC party, told reporters.
State news agency Saba reported on Tuesday that Saleh had told visitors he would “participate” in the on February 21, in which Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi is the sole candidate.
Saleh has repeatedly voiced plans to return to Yemen, but his intention to do so before the vote will raise doubts about his commitment to leave office in line with a Gulf-brokered deal to end a year of political upheaval in the impoverished state.
He remains honorary president until Hadi is elected.
U.S. officials had said Saleh would not return to Yemen until after the referendum-like election, stipulated by the Gulf plan to confirm Hadi as a president for a two-year term.
However the election has already run into problems. Both southern separatists and rebels in the north have said they will boycott it.
Hadi said on Tuesday he would open dialogue with both groups.
“We are determined to overcome our crisis through dialogue and logic, not weapons,” he said in a speech to mark the launch of his election campaign. “This is for the sake of rebuilding a Yemen free of terrorism and corruption.”
Washington fears that a low voter turnout could dent the legitimacy of Hadi, the man it is counting on to steer Yemen away from civil war during a interim period.
Even if the election goes smoothly, Yemen faces a daunting list of security challenges, not least a regional wing of al-Qaeda, which has exploited weak central government control to seize territory in the country’s south.