Yemen has set the date of its presidential election after the country's long-time president Abdullah Saleh relinquished his post Wednesday, in a deal forged with Saudi Arabia by the six-member Gulf Co-operation Council with U.S. and European diplomats
On Wednesday, after more than three decades in office, Saleh transfered his presidential powers to Vice-President Abed-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
In one of his first directives, Hadi issued a decree setting the election to Feb. 21.
"Registered voters and everyone who has reached the legal age ... are called on to vote in early elections for a new president of the republic starting at 8 o'clock on the morning of Tuesday, February 21, 2012," said the decree, a text of which was carried by the state news agency Saba.
In a deal signed by Yemeni opposition in Riyadh in the presence of Saudi King Abdullah, Saleh will enjoy immunity from prosecution for alleged crimes committed under his 33-year reign. He will also keep the presidency until his successor is elected in February.
While the signing of the agreement for his "graceful exit" has been welcomed by U.S. and European diplomats, militant groups opposed to the regime have continued their mass protests in many parts of the country.
The opposition wanted Saleh to be tried in court for his alleged crimes including graft and corruption, the indiscriminate killings of of protesters in recent months and other crimes said to have been committed during his 33 years in power as president of Yemen.
Apparently the opposition members are wary of the fact that the deal does not explicitly ban Saleh from involvement in the country's future political exercises, which could led to a new role for the former president.
On Saturday, opposition leaders criticized Saleh for his statements about issues and events that happened after the signing of the deal. They said the people are confused about his real intentions after stepping down from power and designating the vice-president as interim head of government.
Yassin Saeed Noman, the leader of the Yemen’s opposition coalition, said he had no problem with Saleh’s return, but said that the string of statements by the leader was “wrong.”
“It causes confusion,” he said. “They need to stop making these declarations.”