Saleh, Ali Abdullah (älēˈ äbdŭlˈä säˈlĕ) [key], 1942–, Yemeni political leader, b. Bayt al-Ahmar. Saleh joined the army in 1958 and rose through the ranks, becoming a colonel in 1982. An active participant in the 1974 coup, he became president of the Yemen Arab Republic (or Northern Yemen) and commander-in-chief of the army in 1978. Saleh survived assassination plots and coup attempts to secure a third term as president in 1988, and after unification with Southern Yemen in 1990 he became president of Yemen, retaining power after a civil war in 1994. He was reelected by popular vote in 1999 and 2006, but the elections were marred by fraud and irregulaties.
Faced significant protests against his rule, he promised in Feb., 2011, not to seek reelection, but the protests continued and erupted into fighting in May. Severely wounded (June 2011), Saleh went to Saudi Arabia for treatment, returning to Yemen in September. In November he finally agreed to cede power, remaining on as titular president until an election in Feb., 2012, confirmed Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi as his successor, but Saleh subsequently attempted to undermine the new government through his supporters in it and in the military.