Al-Soofi to the Yemen Times: “I still believe that the GPC will rule for the next 50 years.” [Archives:2008/1210/Reportage]

November 24 2008

By: Mohammed Bin Salam
Mr. Ahmed Abdullah Al-Soofi, Secretary General of the Democracy Development Institute, is an active leader in the ruling General People's Congress (GPC) and is authorized to speak on its behalf.

People claim that Al-Soofi was supporting Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), but he proved to be the first founder of a civil society organization through lavish support from the late Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf, founder of Yemen Times, in 1994. He contributed to establishing the Legal Assistance Center in 1997 and generalizing oversight in the Arab region in 1995.

At the time of political congestion over unity, he established the Popular Movement to Defend National Unity and Fight Corruption. He is currently working on establishing the National Democratic Alliance.

Yemen Times met with Al-Soofi and conducted the following interview, in which Al-Soofi sheds light on the GPC's stand towards controversial affairs such as elections, corruption, terrorism and the crisis in the southern and eastern governorates of the country.

YT: How do you perceive the government's preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections, and how do you evaluate current relations between the government and the opposition?

SG: Disagreements between the GPC and the opposition concerning elections are based on selfish considerations which are absolutely unrelated to democracy and the supreme interest of the country. The latter have risen to a dangerous level and I expect that no one can stop them.

The way I see it, the opposition participates in the electoral process and the GPC holds 60 percent of the parliament seats, while the opposition and independent candidates will be given the rest. This will create an active parliament, better opposition and, more importantly, lead the GPC to rid itself of complacency.

Preparations toward the elections are one of the political activities and central duties that the government is working on. It has to fulfill all its commitments. Towards these preparations, many prolonged dialogues have been conducted with political powers. The Supreme Commission for Election and Referendum (SCER) was dissolved three times and then re-formed. However, dialogue with political powers has yet to reach any agreement.

Yet the government has been working according to the law on which the parliamentary elections were based in 2003. This law has been amended many times and much legislation derives from it. As is one of the fruits of dialogue between the government and the opposition, I wonder why the opposition refuses to participate in these preparations.

YT: The opposition [the JMP] demands the proportional list as a condition to participate in the elections. What is the stand of the ruling party on this?

SG: The JMP doubt democracy as the GPC is the one that rules but, if they were the majority, they would sing its praises. They have run in many elections including two or three parliamentary elections. They also participated in local and presidential elections, but have always remained a minority. Will the proportional list create a magic wand for them and enable them to attain the majority?

YT: But they accuse the government of monopolizing all the country's capacities to serve the official media, army and security apparatuses.

SG: The problem in Yemen is not a question of capacities but, rather, a question of democracy. The opposition doesn't want to bear responsibility in its duties toward promoting democracy. We may have some discrepancies in democracy here and there, but, if so, we all should sit at the table of dialogue to improve the electoral process. I want to maintain that the upcoming elections of 2009 will be better than those of 2003 in all respects, for the simple reason that the opposition will be the observer.

YT: How can the opposition observe if it does not participate?

SG: As long as it will not participate, it is up to it to discover where the fault is. Let it be free for once to discover the shortcomings of the democratic process and we will prove that we are committed precisely and fairly to the law.

YT: Do you think that the GPC will repeat its control over the elections this time?

SG: Why would the GPC repeat its control? We have offered initiatives and important concessions, including the amendment of the election law, to satisfy of the opposition. It seems that there JMP internal problems have caused its members to fail to reach a united stand. They couldn't even present a list of their candidates for SCER membership on time.

With regard to the proportional list, it will serve the Socialist and Nasserite parties as they are scattered but it will not serve the Islah Party. Consequently, I don't think that the JMP speak with one voice and think with one mind. The JMP have strategic considerations as they either run for elections to achieve a strong victory or to limit the results of the electoral process.

YT: Do you really think that there are serious disagreements among JMP members? Do you think that there are splits among them or that they will run for the elections with one list?

SG: First, we should understand that it is in Yemen's interest to have a strong opposition. We wish for a homogeneous opposition with democratic culture and aims.

All the members of the opposition originated from the ranks of government. Antagonism against the government unified them, not a common strategy to develop democracy or a harmonious political program. Even their program for “national rescue”” was a matter of tactics which imply that one side in the JMP will sacrifice its alliance and run for elections alone.

YT: Do you mean the Islah Party?

SG: I don't know