Abdullah Ahmad Ghanem, Legal Affairs Minister to YT: “What the Yemeni Law lacks is the strong country that carries laws out and fair judiciary system that defends rights.” [Archives:2001/13/Interview]

March 26 2001

Late constitutional amendments and local elections has risen lots of inquiries and contention in the public as well as in the Yemeni political life. The notification memo forwarded to the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) has also created big question marks over the constitutional amendments, local council elections, political parties, Yemeni law, changes to be made in laws due the constitutional amendments, etc. Mr. Abdullah Ahmad Ghanem is the Legal and Parliament Affairs Minister. He used to be the chief editor of al-Mithaq newspaper, mouth piece of GPC, in the early 1990s. He is also a professional practiced lawyer with a good command of the constitution leading him to be among the top distinguished ministers in the political arena. Jalal al-Sharaabi of the Yemen Times met with him and talked about a wide range of issues. He highlighted many controversial issues not only as a leading member in the GPC but as the Legal Affairs’ Minister and Committee of Parties’ Affairs Chairman.
Q: What are the laws to be amended or changed so as to cohere with the constitutional amendments endorsed?
A: The new constitutional amendments has become in effect after being endorsed with 73% of the voters. These amendments are in need of laws so as to carry them out. Hence changes are to be made on some laws so as to go in coherence with these amendments and to start implementing the Local Authority Law No (4) of the year 2000. For instance, the bylaw of the Parliament which is to be passed by a law is in need of some amendments so as to go in harmony with the amendments made in articles No (64, 86, 61). The law of provisions pertaining to the Consultative Council is also in need of some amendments. In fact, it will be eliminated and replaced by the Law organizing the Shoora Council (SC), its bylaw, and the joint meetings to be held between the SC and the Parliament upon calls by the President. Some amendments are to be made to the trade and investment laws in accordance with amended article No (10) of the constitution which asserted the free trade, competition and investment opportunities. Amendments are to be made to the financial and taxation laws, particularly the Financial Law so as to fit with the Local Authority Law after some authorities including Zakah and Qat taxes are included into the authorities of the Local Authority Law.
Q: A number of politicians and interested people talk about some laws pertaining to the pre-unity period after ten years of the Unity. What is your comment?
A: There are still some laws in this sense. However, at a broad sense they have no effect on the general life of the people. During the past years many unified laws were issued based on the constitution of the Republic of Yemen. I can assure you that the laws you are speaking about are but few and we are in our way to replace them by new ones.
Q: With regards to electing members of al-Shoora Council instead of appointing them. What is new about this issue?
A: The idea is still under study. It has not matured yet. The idea is that the President wants the representatives of the people in the governorates’ Local Councils to participate in electing 111 members in the Shoora Council. Ultimately, the President will pass a republican decree appointing them. However, the mechanism of nominating them so far has not materialized yet.
Q: Many parties have filed appeals in courts. What is new about them? And do not these appeals impede the process of declaring the final results of the elections?
A: According to the law these appeals do not prevent the committee from declaring the winning candidates and giving them the winning certificates. The successful candidate can attend the preliminary meetings of the council he was elected for. When the court passes a verdict in these appeals then we will behave accordingly.
Q: What are the violations, parties made, and were noted down by the Parties’ Affairs Committee during the elections, especially as many confrontations took place?
A: On the contrary, we view the participation of political parties as a positive phenomenon. In the pre-election and referendum period, the hot and heated controversy between parties had actually promoted the people’s awareness. As a result, they actively participated in the whole process. We have not noted any violations against any parties.
It is true there were some mistakes made by parties. These mistakes pertaining to parties imposing their representatives in some electoral committees not to adhere to the election law or to the instructions of the Supreme Election Committee. These parties rather asked some of their representatives to work according to interests of their parties. For example, there are letters made by some parties’ leaders to their representatives in some committees instructing them not to sign the results of the elections. This is a big mistake. This makes us think to reconsider the issue of allowing parties to participate in the electoral committees membership. We want impartial and independent electoral committees.
Q: Mr. Mohammed Ghaleb, YSP Political Office member, issued a memo to the supervisor of Aden governorate, Mrs. Radhiah Shamsheer, YSP Political Office member, asking her not to approve and sign the final results of the constitutional amendments. What is new about the results as the supervisor of the governorate has not yet approved them ?
A: That was an obvious mistake by the YSP. They think when she does not approve the results, this will eliminate the legitimacy of elections. This is not true. Elections are legitimate and the results were declared and accepted by parties including the YSP. When parties make mistakes, we do not expect that the law will be weak to deal with the situation.
Q: However, many opposition parties including the Islah and GPC agreed on the idea that there have been some violations in these elections. So how can the elections be legitimate and promising to the democratic process?
A: I am talking as a lawyer before I talk as a politician. A violations can never be unless there is an appeal is submitted to the concerned judiciary court. However, claims of violations are only made for media consumption.
Q: Many view the Parities’ Affairs Committee as partial and that it carries out policies of the ruling party. What is your comment?
A: I am not the first chairman of the Parties’ Affairs Committee (PAC). The first chairman was Mr. Rashed Mohammed Thabet when he was the Parliament Affairs Minister and chairman of the PAC. At the time he was a YSP member. The second chairman of the PAC was Mr. Abdulsalam khalid Karman when he was the Parliament Affairs Minister. At the time he was an Islah member. Now I am the chairman of PAC and belong to the GPC. Why the committee is said to be partial now and was not when it was headed by other parties.
Q: With regards to the notification memo forwarded to the YSP by PAC. What is the coming action to be taken by the Ministry?
A: With respect to friends in the YSP, their reaction was very aggressive. The notification memo was based according to the legal fundamentals as they violated the law when they elected for the Permanent Committee Membership some outlaws who were convicted for plotting the secession and war. They came to say that that was a legitimate right. They have no right to elect to the leadership of the party anyone who is outlaw and convicted by the court. This was the basis for forwarding the notification memo.
So far the party has not rejected the memo neither did it accept it. They sent a letter to the PAC requesting more information about the background of the notification. Now we are preparing details despite the fact that they totally realize these issues. We will follow this issue up and expect that they will accept it.
Q: Was the heated media campaign between you and some members of the YSP a way to settle old records between you and the party?
A: It is up to the YSP. I really wonder why the YSP mobilize itself to attack one person, Abdullah Ahmad Ghanem. I can not help but say the truth. I can well respond to whatever they say.
Q: In your view what parties has to do in the post-election period?
A: Parties have to evaluate their participation in the elections and referendum. They have also to prepare themselves to the coming elections in two year time.
With regards to the government, I believe that there are two tasks to be done. The first is to draw out a new and comprehensive administrative division. The second is to coordinate with the Supreme Election Committee to hold new registration process for all the voters so as to have final, correct and unified voters lists. Voters lists are of prime importance and are the basis for fair and creditable election results.
I expect that within the coming two years this process will be implemented and I hope the process will be carried out up the standard and expectations. And by 2003 we become fully prepared to hold the parliamentary and local council elections simultaneously.
Q: As a chairman of PAC, have you got any intents to amend or make some changes in the parties law? Have you got any surprises stored for other parties other than YSP?
A: We do not pursue our activities according to the ” surprise policy”. We work in accordance with the law. We have a suggestion to amend the Parties Law pertaining to the way the government annual financial support is distributed to parties. According to the law allowances and support is distributed to those parties who have representatives in the Parliament. Hence, some parties are deprived of these allowances. So we intend to make an amendment to give some support to parties that participate in the elections whether they succeed or not.
Q: Is there any new applications presented to the committee to establish new parties?
A: So far, there has not been any application submitted to the committee to establish a new party.
Q: You know that the point is not to pass laws but to enact them and make them a reality. Will the new laws remain a far cry off?
A: This is not true. Most of the laws passed are enacted. However, there are some limitations in their implementation. This is not only restricted to Yemen. Rather this is also the case in many other countries.
In the case of Yemen we, so often than not, come to find what is called “constitutional contradiction” meaning the contradiction between the text and reality. Sometimes you come to find a good legal text. However, things in reality are not as good as the text is. So as to solve this we need to promote the awareness of the people to the level of the legal text. It is only a matter of time. We should also take into account all the social, economic and political aspects of the country.
Q: In your opinion, what does the Yemeni law lack?
A: What the Yemeni Law lacks is the strong country that carries laws out and fair judiciary system that defends rights.
Q: Any last comment?
A: I hope that all those interested in the democratic experience in Yemen will give a fair account of the democratic events talking place into the country. I hope all will realize that the peaceful transfer of power and democracy won’t be a reality unless the party enjoying the majority is defeated through elections. The party supported by the majority of the people has the right to be supported by them as long as it is working in accordance with the legal democratic fundamentals, the constitution and the laws of the country. I finally also hope that they will view the Yemeni government as they view any other Arab governorates.