As Yemen transitions towards democracy, it is organizing a presidential election with only one likely candidate: Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
And that idea is drawing wide support from opposition parties and Yemen's diplomatic partners. For months, they have been pushing for the replacement of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who recently agreed to end his 33-year rule after months of protests against him.
Analysts say those with interests in Yemen's future have differing motives for backing an uncompetitive democratic process. The election is scheduled for February.
In the view of Yemen's opposition coalition, known as the Joint Meeting Parties, Hadi is a neutral figure who played no role in Saleh's violent crackdown on opposition protesters.
The 66-year old former army commander is a southerner who sided with President Saleh, a northerner, in a 1994 civil war and helped to defeat a southern rebellion. Hadi was rewarded with the vice presidency, but the post lacked influence until the president's political demise this year.
Ibrahim Sharqieh, deputy director of the Brookings Doha Center, said Hadi also benefited from a brief stint as acting president while Saleh received medical treatment in Riyadh for wounds suffered in a June bomb attack in Sana'a.
"Hadi worked with the opposition closely and earned their trust," he said.
As part of the transition deal, the Joint Meeting Parties won a pledge from the ruling General People's Congress to limit Hadi's presidential term to two years.
Robert Powell, a Middle East expert at the Economist Intelligence Unit in New York, said both sides know they must use those two years to pass constitutional and electoral reforms. "You cannot really have a competitive election until all of these are in place," he said.
Hadi also would seem to be the preferred Yemeni leader of Saudi Arabia and the United States. Both nations want a change in the presidency, but not in the government's structure or military institutions - especially in light of the world terror threat coming from al-Qaida backed elements within Yemen.
Under the Gulf Arab plan, a transitional cabinet will govern Yemen until the election, with Saleh's party controlling half of the ministries including defense and opposition members in charge of the rest. "The United States does not trust the opposition to be an alternative to Saleh's regime," analyst Sharqieh said. "Washington is motivated by the fight against al-Qaida and so far, Saleh's regime proved itself to be the real ally in fighting al-Qaida in Yemen."
Keeping Yemen stable
Powell said the main aim of the United States and neighboring Gulf nations is to keep Yemen as stable as possible.
"They want nothing of the sort of disorderly regime change that we saw in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya," he said. "What they want is something that remains within the Yemeni constitution."
Still, many of the youth activists who led anti-Saleh protests are angry about the transition deal because they see it as keeping power in the hands of corrupt establishment politicians.Hadi, for his part, has pledged to restore normality to Yemen’s cities by Saturday, a ceasefire mediated by U.S. ambassador Gerald Feierstein and UN envoy Jamal Benomar. Although Hadi claims that government soldiers will return to their barracks and dismantle checkpoints, it remains to be seen whether Saleh’s “new” government forces the protesters to return home with them.
Numerous ceasefires have been broken since June, and both the regime and opposition remain eager to usurp each other's power through provocation.