84% want governors elected, not appointed, study finds [Archives:2007/1045/Front Page]

April 26 2007

By: Adel Al-Khawlani
SANA'A, April 25 – Eighty-four percent out of a total of 307 local council members interviewed in various parts of Yemen backed the idea of voters directly electing governors instead of them being appointed, as revealed in a public opinion poll the Yemen Polling Center conducted ahead of last year's presidential and local council elections. The polling's results were discussed at a workshop on Monday.

According to the poll, nearly 67 percent of respondents wanted deputy governors to be elected directly in lieu of being appointed, while 31 percent disagreed with the idea. Compared to responses to the previous question, the number of interviewees backing such an idea declined because they believe governors (not deputy governors) have more dominance over running affairs of executive offices than other officials.

Based on responses from those polled, 70 percent also supported affiliating branches of the Central Organization for Control and Audit with local councils, while 27.5 percent disagreed. Only 2.3 percent of interviewees said they didn't know whether this was feasible or not.

The survey further disclosed that 51.5 percent of respondents supported extending the local council term to six years, while nearly 48 percent disagreed.

Just over 79 percent of the sample confirmed that they back the nomination of qualified women to run for local council posts, compared to 18.2 percent who stated that they don't support nominating women. Interviewees belonging to the Islah Party outnumbered those with other party affiliations in terms of opposing the nomination of qualified women for local council seats.

Respondents offered varying viewpoints in their assessment of citizens' level of awareness enabling them to select the most eligible local council candidates to represent them, the survey added.

From interviewees' viewpoints, the poll explained that the main problems and obstacles posed to the local council experience in Yemen, which is in its infancy, mainly relate to unlimited powers exercised by executive government offices.

For example, 92 percent of local council members polled believed that executive authorities dominate all of the main duties and powers and thus, hinder their performance, while 50 percent said they see similarities in tasks, duties and powers delegated to local councils and executive government officials.

The local council's role is unclear for the members themselves and those in executive offices, according to nearly 50 percent of the sample, thus adding lack of awareness to the list of obstacles hindering the performance of local council representatives.

Those acknowledging that low awareness about the role of local councils is an obstacle posed to their performance accounted for 84.3 percent of those surveyed, followed by admitting to the weak relationship between citizens and local councils.

The poll was conducted in six governorates, with 47 male and female field researchers, who attended a two-day training course at the Yemen Polling Center, collecting data from the field and filling out questionnaires. Some 307 interviews were conducted with those who had won local council seats during the first vote or had run for posts in the most recent elections in September 2006.

Additionally, researchers interviewed citizens while collecting data for another poll targeting public viewpoints. According to the researchers' reports, large numbers of citizens feared being interviewed, as the response rate was 66 percent. Field researchers visited 1,522 households in six governorates: Sana'a, Amran, Dhamar, Taiz, Aden and Hadramout. Citizens in 414 of the total households visited by researchers refused to be interviewed.