Ali Abdullah Saleh (علي عبدالله صالح; born 21 March 1946 or 1942) is the first and current President of the Republic of Yemen. Saleh previously served as President of the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) from 1978 until 1990, at which time he assumed the office of chairman of the Presidential Council of the Republic of Yemen (unified Yemen). He is the longest-serving president of Yemen, ruling since 1978. On 2 February 2011, he announced that he would step down in 2013. On 23 April 2011, he announced that he would be willing to step down in return for immunity from criminal prosecution.
Saleh was born in the town of al-Ahmar, in the Al-Ahmar Family—the ruling family of the Hashid tribal confederacy. Saleh is a Zaydi Shia Muslim. He is a “non-Hashimi” Zaydi (not a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandfather), and Saleh would not have been eligible to rule under the Zaydi Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen that ruled the country until 1962.
Saleh obtained less than an elementary school education. He joined the North Yemeni armed forces in 1958 and the North Yemen Military Academy in 1960 and became a corporal. Three years later he was commissioned from the ranks as a second lieutenant. In 1977, the President of North Yemen, Ahmed bin Hussein al-Ghashmi, appointed him as military governor of Ta’izz.
After al-Ghashmi was assassinated on 24 June 1978, Saleh was appointed to be a member of the four-man provisional presidency council and deputy to the general staff commander. On 17 July 1978, Saleh was elected by the Parliament to be the President of the Yemen Arab Republic, chief of staff and commander in chief of the armed forces.