Yemen's ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Salih looked close to an exit late last week; on Friday even some of his own Cabinet were talking about him being gone in a day or two. Now he's hanging tough once again, insisting 95% of the people support him and that it's the other 5% who should leave. He has a track record of promising not to run again and then doing so, which is why his promise to quit by the end of the year did not impress the opposition.
If Salih hangs on, it suggests we will not see an autocrat departing office in March, having gotten used to the revolution-of-the-month, with Ben Ali in January and Mubarak in February. Of course, the speed with which upheaval has spread is still extraordinary by any historical standard. But Qadhafi is hanging on (regaining ground again today), while Bahrain has plugged its volcano for the time being, with Saudi support. It's still early days in Syria. I would expect there to be more leaders toppled from power in coming weeks and months, but it's unlikely to be universal, and there will be those who are able to reform ahead of the tsunami. I do think Qadhafi will not now recover full power, and that Salih has already lost it in Yemen but is in denial; but I've learned not to make predictions about this amazing time, when so few of the old rules apply. Like the Red Queen, I've learned to believe six impossible things before breakfast.