Yemen’s outgoing president Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered his portrait be taken off public buildings, squares and streets ahead of a presidential election to replace him next week.
Saleh formally handed power to his deputy, Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in November as part of a Gulf-brokered plan to end months of anti-government protests that paralysed the impoverished state for most of 2011.
In line with that deal, Yemenis head to the polls on February 21 for an election in which Hadi is the sole candidate to take over from Saleh and steer the country during a two-year transitional period, Reuters reports.
Yemen’s state news agency Saba reported that Saleh had instructed that Hadi’s picture be put up in public places instead of his own, in a move likely to ease doubts about his readiness to leave office.
Underscoring challenges faced by his successor, a suicide bomber driving a car packed with explosives drove into an army barricade in the oil-producing Maarib province east of the capital on Wednesday, wounding five soldiers, police said.
“The suicide bomber believed to be from the al Qaeda network attacked an army barricade in Maarib province, killing himself immediately and wounding five soldiers, some of whom are in a critical state and have been taken to hospital,” a police official told Reuters.
Islamist militants emboldened by weak central government control have exploited political upheaval in Yemen to strengthen their foothold in the country, near oil shipping routes through the Red Sea.
Saudi Arabia and the United States, both targets of al Qaeda’s regional Yemen-based wing, are pinning their hopes on the election as a step towards ending instability.