Abdullah Ali al-Dahi al-Kazimi is head of Democratic MovementWhat’s the future of this new, visionary political party? [Archives:2004/717/Community]

March 4 2004

Mohammed bin Sallam
There is not, in my opinion, a thorough definition to the concept of democracy, whether in our Yemeni society or in the world at large. Concepts of democracy have developed and changed throughout the past centuries with the emergence of various theories and through the practice by the European countries that we call democratic countries. In a nutshell, there is not only one theory called the democratic theory, but rather many theories for democracy.
Amidst this multitude of democratic thoughts and theories a new political party managed to learn from all democracies experiments. Via this new party, Yemen can witness new thought and visions pertaining to the concept of democracy in harmony with the Yemeni reality and its peculiarities.
Yemen Times has recently conducted a dialogue with Abdullah Ali al-Dahi al-Kazimi, the son of one of revolutionary warriors from the south and north of Yemen, the Secretary-General of the Yemeni Democratic Movement. Mr. al-Dahi was born in Abyan governorate in 1962. He is married and has five children and works in the private sector.

Q: Can you tell us an outline about the Democratic Movement and its goals?
A: The movement was established in August 1986. Talking about background of the democratic movement foundation in 1986 and the months that followed the 1986 misfortune, we were talking about a war. Thus we had in the first place put our trust in the word not the gun.
We had found it too difficult to accept that one party imposes its viewpoint by violence and therefore we had called for the pure democracy. As for our goals they are in brief calling for: political sovereignty for the people, governance accepted by the governed, rule of the majority, minority rights, protection of basic human rights, free and honest elections, equality before the law, following approved legal procedures, constitutional restrictions on the government, political, economic and social pluralism and values of tolerance and cooperation.

Q: Dos that mean circumstances of the 1986 war helped creation of the Democratic Movement?
A: No, not in this sense, but the situation in general, whether in Yemen or in the region. Both of them created a situation made it inevitable to think in another way. Even the changes must be in a different method. We thought the changes in the south should be for altering the situation there to open a chance for possibility of realizing the unity, which was then a kind of impossibility.

Q: Were you calling then for democracy in the south only?
A: No. The Democratic Movement was founded to include the entire Yemeni map and dialogue on the unity project was held in Sana'a and then extended to include various governorates of the republic. The Democratic Movement members are now from most of Yemeni governorates.

Q: Why was the declaration of the Democratic Movement Party waited that long?
A: I think it has not been delayed but the movement was in the process of natural maturity. We did have an active contribution in the unity agreement, inside and outside Yemen. Before the unity agreement we used to call for the necessity of creating high level of trust between the then two ruling regimes in Sana'a and Aden.

Q: Why didn't you register your party with the Parties Affairs Committee in 1990?
A: From the beginning we had certain reservation concerning the Parties Affairs Committee performance and formation, and we see it as not in agreement with aspirations of the people standing at the threshold of the 21st century. The alternative is to update and develop the committee.
In the past period we were working in full independence from the committee and we had our precautions and we had been working up the broad lines for “resistance” and when we got finished with that we announced the leading members names of the Yemeni Democratic Movement. Parties Affairs Committee is basically an authority-related entity and would not welcome newcomers or at least would surround them with skepticisms.

Q: What do you mean by resistance?
A: Resistance is in the sense of defending continuation of the idea. In other words, the committee could have in the past get in touch with leaders of the democratic movement in an attempt to dissuade them from their idea, either by temptation or by threat.

Q: How many members have so far joined the democratic movement?
A: All those who joined the movement from the beginning maintained their membership, except for those who assumed state posts. The general leadership is composed of 39 members, 33 of them have already been announced, the rest are reserved for the sides not yet represented in the general leadership, 11 members of the general secretariat, the general assembly is composed of 610 members; each eleven represent 250 members and so the total members of the movement is 11330.

Q: Has the party affairs committee granted you lately a permit for officially practicing your activity?
A: We began our dialogue with the committee in 2000 but were intermittent. On December 2003 they asked us to hold a meting for our constituent assembly. Here we had draw their attention that the measure was beyond authority of the regulation of the parties committee work and that would be an additional burden on our limited resources.
Nevertheless we had accepted that in the hope of creating a transparent climate between the parties committee and political organisations and the judgment is left to the public opinion regarding the committee's performance and parties activity.
On January 20, 2004 we held our first session of the general assembly, which was a meeting of both the constituent assembly and the general assembly. We had invited the press and Yemen Times newspaper was represented.
In that session we had announced names of the democratic movement leadership, read out the movement's documents and approved them for the second time; this time before the media instruments. After the session of the general assembly we maintained our contacts with the committee and told us there would be an invitation of political forces and parties and we would be among the invitees.

Q: Did the committee fix a certain date for granting you the permit?
A: No, they didn't. We have sent them a complete file, but instead of considering it according to the regulations, they proposed the idea of holding the constituent assembly.

Q: Why do you think they hinder granting you the permit? Are there any objections against you?
A: Absolutely not. Till now there is no party that has followed the regular and procedural steps that we have done. All of them come with recommendations either from political security or some power centers to get permission easily. For parties affairs committee considers those commendations as enough to issue its permit. But we did not ask for any of such recommendations.
We are almost the only party to whom they apply the rules. We are proud of implementing the laws and rules regulating registration of political parties. Through your newspaper we renew our demand for effecting changes in the party affairs committee.
We want the committee to be a factor for organizing the parties activity, not to hinder it. It should be a national body in which political parties do participate and to be granted an entity, including all parties activities and the government should not leave the parties depend foreign projects.

Q: You mentioned that guaranteeing the right to ideology as one of your party's goals, what do you mean by that?
A: Anyone who has an ideology he has the right to keep it and practice its rituals and life according to his own ideology and this is guaranteed by the law and rules.

Q: What about education?
A: The education system prevalent in Yemen is bad. It does not link education outputs to the need of society and particularly neglecting teaching the society's individuals the skills leading to raise the level of the society's material production and its creative energies.

Q: How do you define democracy?
A: It did not happen that a concept has been emptied from its meaning as tat of democracy. No political regime but has claimed democracy till it reached the extent that even tyrant regimes and oppression to claim their being democratic. Democracy in Yemen is completely absent. What happens is that the 22 political parties practically avoid any real issues for stabilizing democracy or defending human rights; individuals and groups and minorities.
They rather wait for the time of lections to look for any party to and contract a temporary alliance. After the election there is no area for the actual work and keep waiting again till the next elections come. Our party's work is devoted for serving the society because the movement does not put it as a condition to gain power and the democracy we call for is that of coexistence with the citizen's daily life.

Q: How do you evaluate the parties in Yemen?
A: The Yemeni political parties are still on the first line of democracy. The Yemeni parties are required to raise the level of their political, organizational and national awareness. They have to enter into competition for the achievement of the national interest.

Q: Do you think your party would present a distinguished example of democracy:
A: First of all we have been ahead of all political parties in thinking of the present changes. In 1986 we believed of that the changes we had to create in the south to change the Marxist regime should be through a new way. We had a vision that the socialist regime could not fall by an attack from abroad, it would fall from inside when mistakes are disclosed and the people would be the proper judge. Thus the movement has certain concepts for democratic life to take root inside the political parties.

Q: How do you perceive the existing ruling authority?
A: To talk about the political leadership, represented by the president Ali Abdullah Saleh, it has a sincere orientation as it is dealing with history. The president should work out his final perception and expectation on how to solve the problem of the transfer of power easily and flexibly, as it is done in other democracies. We are not speaking about a homogenous ruling system but of multi-lateral, some good and some not. In the opposition there are good and vicious elements. I blame the opposition, sometimes more than the authority.

Q: Does the present authority work for the good of the citizen and is it working in accordance with the goals of the September and October revolutions?
A: Not as it should. There are many things the authority is not doing. But generally the authority is trying to preserve the general interest, whether it meant for maintaining it stay in power or to preserve the country's stability and safety. In a way, most of the revolution goals have been achieved.

Q: Are there any internal or external sides supporting you or stand by you?
A: So far there are not nay sides that claim to have offered us their material or moral support.

Q: The Arab regimes object the western approach to democracy and demand a democracy adopting peculiarities of the Arab homeland.
A: We respect all of the Arab regimes but the Arab regimes and the Arab political order have for the past 50 years leading us from mistakes to other mistakes. The essential idea the Arab regimes and rulers adopt is how to continue in governance and authority more than anything else and it does not matter whether to pursue the democratic pursuit or other. Internal changes in the Arab homeland are generally the responsibility of the ruling elites controlling management of its affairs. These elites in general do not want real democracy but rather the democracy adaptable to their interest and modify it to their own interests.

Q: You have declared the establishment of your democratic movement at a time Yemen is living difficult economic circumstances, have you chosen this time to contribute to tackling this situation?
A: As a political movement we believe our presence has come in the nick of time for our task is to raise the level of the people's living by expanding the society's capitalist base, I mean there must be equal opportunities. The problem of the Arab backwardness is attributed to low level of material production and creative potentials of the Arab man. The political parties tasks lie in helping the people to discover their potentials and to work at their productive capacity.

Q: Do you have a program that might accelerate the process of reform and tackling with corruption?
A: All those perceiving changes and reforms look at them from above. We look at them from the base. Part of the political parties tasks is to communicate with the people, their broad base and to offer their practical examples. Our movement participation would be through defending the rights of individuals and groups and minorities as well as defending the public right and protection of the coming generations future.

Q: What are the activities you have so far made to show your role as an active party on the arena?
A: Yes. For example some people whose rights and houses have been violated, we have in the past period worked for making Aden and example area where he project is implemented and our ambition is to have it applied to other governorates of the republic. After nine years of building examples we have formed an idea of this orientation. Therefore our party has been the first one to demand for forming a ministry of human rights and public right in 1999 and actually what we aspired for has been realized. We are now planning for demanding a ministry for the citizen rights.