3 Days to Go before the Day of Yemen’s 1st Direct Presidential Elections Presidential Elections: Preparation and Statistics [Archives:1999/38/Interview]

September 20 1999

By: Yasser Mohamed Ahmed 
Yemen Times 
Within this week, we will all witness a historical event. It will not necessarily be an event that is satisfactory for all sectors of the community. But yet, it is something that will happen for the first time in the history of Yemen. 
To know exactly how many will vote, how many units there are, and how things are going in preparation for this event; we had a brief interview with the Supreme Elections Committee’s chairman, Dr. Abdullah Barakat. In his interview he said, “First, I would like to thank the Yemen Times for thoroughly covering this historical event, which is giving the democratic process great coverage and interest. The newspaper has helped a lot to deliver the all the democratic proceedings in Yemen to the foreign sector, to Yemenis abroad, and to the international community. 
Currently, the Supreme Elections Committee is in its final phases regarding the preparation for the presidential elections. We have already prepared all what is needed to have this event as a success on the 23rd of September. Today, we consider this event a drastic transition in the history of Yemen. The decision of who will be the ruler of Yemen is left to the people. 
From this aspect, great efforts have been made to prepare for this final stage. The steps that have been taken to reach this stage were many. The first stage was the registration phase, in which 5,600,000 registrations in the years 1993, 1996, and 1999 took place. All the names were then placed in one single list. Now that we already have the names of the eligible voters, the next step is actually the voting phase. We are currently involved deeply in preparing for this stage. We have already made a lot of tables concerning the presidential campaigns and festivals in a fairly equal manner, in regards to the printed press, radio, and TV. 
Today, we have launched more than 17,184 committees. This effort is to widen the scope of participation, spread awareness of the importance of these elections, and organize the voting procedures. 
While the number of men committees reached 11,048, women committees reached 6,135. Every committee includes at least 3 persons. It is worth mentioning that these numbers include the extra committees which are not mentioned in the below tables. 
As you can conclude, these committees need a lot of care and continuous supervision day and night. The tools and equipment necessary for voting include voter tables and voting cards, which have already been installed in the voting centers all over the country. 
The extra committees and centers have also been allocated for the voters who are not voting in their original centers. We have also invited a number of Arab and foreigner monitoring unions and journalists, some on our expenses. The invitation to whomever wishes to attend this historical event is also open, and will stay open even until 72 hours after the voting procedures are over.” 
Yemen Times then continued to interview the ones involved n the preparation for the success of this event. Among them was Staff Brigadier Ali Mohammed Salah, the chairman of the Security Committee of the Elections Committee’s Operations Unit. While assuring that conditions of all the proceedings are stable, he said, “We have prepared more than 50,280 soldiers and officers to guard the voting centers and to make sure that everything goes smoothly during all the election procedures. We have special units to protect all the 19,771 election boxes distributed in 2,083 voting centers monitored by 353 election centers. The security committee has managed to transport all the documents, equipment, and boxes that will be used in the voting and vote collecting process, through special military transportation by air and land. 
We have also took extra measures to protect the diplomats who will be visiting the voting centers. The total number of eligible voters is 5,591,000 and we are well prepared to have all these voters protected from any possible action.” 

Abdullah Al-Qadasi, the General Relations Manager at the Supreme Election Committee also indicated that his duty is to contact and stay in touch with all international organizations and foundations which will have presence in the monitoring or observation of the voting phases. “We have been in direct contact with several International organizations, including the UNDP and many other organizations and committees from donor countries, which are showing great interest in this democratic process. Our objective is to coordinate the work of these organizations to whoever wants to observe all the processes taking place, and make sure everything goes smoothly.”When asked of who exactly has come to observe the elections, he answered, “Until now, we have received 533 requests to attend and observe the election proceedings. Among them are the Arab Democratic Institute, the Supreme National Human Rights Committee, and representatives from several countries such as Palestine, India,Indonesia, Korea, Chec. Republic, and Djibouti. All these observers can at any time get the information and statistics, and have a look at how the proceedings are going, with no conditions or restrictions whatsoever. They also are being protected by some security forces and are given all facilities to have their missions as successful as possible.”Some agree that the elections are an important step towards having the peaceful transfer of power implemented for the first time in Yemen, and some see the elections as no more than a systematically planned referendum with the suit of elections. 
All parties however, have something in common, and that is the curiosity to know how many votes will the unfamiliar competitor, “Najeeb Qahtan Al-Shaabi will gain. Many think that if he gets more than 10%, that will indeed mean a surprise for everybody. 
Can there be a surprise? Let’s wait and see.