Agreement reached on Election Commission crisisGov’t seeks to amend Election Law [Archives:2008/1177/Front Page]

July 31 2008

By: Aqeel Al-Halali
For The Yemen Times

SANA'A, July 30 ) As the government last Tuesday transmitted its second project, which includes amending 30 items in the Election Law, to Parliament to complete constitutional procedures in order to issue the new law, Parliament declared extending its session until next week to approve the amendments.

The Joint Meeting Parties already rejected a government project last November stipulating that election committee members be judges, demanding the election committee be comprised of politicians, not judges, according to a party principle agreement. However, the ruling General People's Congress Party believes the committee should be comprised according to the number of 2003 parliamentary election voters.

Yemen's state-run Saba news agency reports that the government project includes completely amending 23 items and eight clauses in another seven items, pointing out that the amendments will “fill shortcomings of the law that have appeared over the past period, as well as enhance guarantees for free and credible elections, thereby implementing European Union recommendations following the most recent presidential election.”

According to the news agency, the amendment project essentially focuses on widening the scope of contesting against local and parliamentary public electoral candidates during the nomination period. It also guarantees impartiality in public works, public financing and official media during election campaigns, in addition to granting the right to file management complaints during the election process and organize related procedures.

The proposed amendments will “enhance the election committee's independence and impartiality, organize election security, expand local and international observation of the elections and specify the observers' rights and commitments,” Saba reported.

Election Committee crisis ends

An official source in the ruling party says this government project involves the “agreement of all political parties in forming the election commission.”

GPC-affiliated Member of Parliament Abdulaziz Jubari says, “It's good for all active political parties to reach an agreement,” pointing out that Parliament earlier this month approved suspending discussion of the previous amendment law project “until the political parties agree on its terms.”

Opposition parties boycotted Parliament sessions this past June in protest of a majority in Parliament members placing the amendment project on the parliamentary agenda before the GPC bloc approved suspending discussions, noting that there should be political agreement regarding the Election Law.

According to Jubari, Parliament last Tuesday approved extending its session to Aug. 6 in order to discuss the government's amendment of the Election Law, which is scheduled for approval next week, and elect new members to the new Election Commission.

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According to the law, the Election Commission is to be comprised of nine members chosen by the president from a list of 15 members presented by Parliament.

Election Commission Secretary-General Shayif Al-Husseini points out that announcing the Election Commission next week will provide the opportunity for the upcoming elections scheduled for April 27, 2009, to be held on time, adding that the current commission's general secretariat already has prepared technical and administrative orders to conduct the upcoming elections.

“The Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum, which will commence working by the end of August, will form the observation committee, since the other technical and administrative preparations already have been done by the current Election Commission's general secretariat,” Al-Husseini noted.

Yemeni women seek their role

Ramzia Al-Eryani, head of the Yemeni Women's Union, recently stressed the importance of raising women's awareness about their electoral rights in order for them to actively participate in the upcoming elections.

In a workshop, Al-Eryani noted that an evaluation of the women's union's internal elections last June increased social awareness toward women's issues and rights, which is vitally important in enabling them make decisions and implement strategies related to women in the union.

Observers maintain that women's political situation in Yemen recently has decreased, especially given that women hold only one of 301 seats in Parliament and only two ministry positions within the current government.

According to official data from the most recent local and presidential elections held Sept. 20, 2006, the number of women registered on electoral rolls is 3,900,565 out of 9,247,370 voters.

The first report recently issued by Al-Jazeera Center for Studies and Human Rights criticized women's situation on the agenda of parties and political organizations, pointing out that women “don't exist in any leadership positions, except in five out of 12 parties in Yemen.”

The report points out that illiteracy is one outstanding obstacle hindering Yemeni women's advancement in society. It further noted that the number of women is disappointing because they comprise the majority of Yemen's illiteracy rate, which is 39.3 percent in urban areas and 78.2 percent in rural areas.