A call to establish a third political congregation [Archives:2009/1224/Front Page]

January 12 2009

Aqeel Al-Halali
For the Yemen Times

SANA'A, Jan. 11 ) Well-known Yemeni journalist Nabil Al-Soufi has called for the establishment of a new political congregation as an alternative to the ruling General People's Congress (GPC) and the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), currently the two most prominent political currents in Yemen.

Al-Soufi, who was the media leader of the Islah party, a major member of the JMP, and also head of the Yemeni Media Group, said that Yemen needs “a more comprehensive political address that focuses on more than just central initiatives.” He pointed out that this approach should differ ideologically from the current address in the country. “The new discourse should include the ideological and social roots of both the ruling and opposition parties,” he said.

The new political congregation will defend the demands of the new generation which “the generation controlling government decisions and the opposition do not understand,” stated Al-Soufi.

He said that he discussed the idea of establishing this congregation with a limited group of activists including members of the media, politicians, and economists. He called for discussing this political project more widely so that it can run for the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for next April. He said that “the congregation will participate in the elections in preparation for attaining a Yemeni political block to work for the issues of the country, either through the parliament or by forming a new party.” The new congregation will work through different means and with strong participation from women and other minorities.

Al-Soufi's call aroused controversy, particularly through the reactions sent to his web site. Some people supported his idea and considered it an agent for change, especially since it addresses educated people and aims to enhance the role of women. However, others viewed that the new project aims to “cover the corruption of the current Yemeni regime.” They pointed out that they expect that the congregation, if established, may be chaired by Ahmed Ali Abdullah, the president's son.

Al-Soufi confirmed in a statement to the Yemen Times that his call aims to “accomplish a civil alliance based on citizenship” to work according to its special agenda.

Observers considered that timing of this call, just four months before holding elections, aims to undermine the stand of the JMP which decided to boycott coming elections while simultaneously aiming to enhance the role of the ruling party.

“Why not say that we will enhance the role of the opposition parties if we agree with them?” wondered Al-Soufi in response to the observers. He considered that political work in Yemen “needs more knowledge instead of focusing on preoccupation with others.”

Regarding whether this new congregation will contest the ruling GPC or the opposition, particularly the Islah and Socialist parties, Al-Soufi said, “We believe that the three parties work in the same way and their ideas are similar to each other. Some of this country's issues and needs are not paid any attention to by either party.

“When we analyze the political speeches of the political parties, we find that the disagreement is not objective. All of them have the same attitude toward women, development, dialogue, and openness. We only aim to serve the country, and nothing is impossible,” he pointed out.

He said that he hopes to be supported from internal and external bodies “as supporting democracy in this country.” He confirmed that after the project is discussed, particularly with “public opinion as a first partner,” organized meetings will be held.

Al-Soufi is a member of the non-governmental committee that follows up the accomplishment of the president's electoral program. He has strong relationships with some leaders of the ruling GPC as well as with some foreign embassies in Yemen.