Arrests, protests, violence and the constitutional reference [Archives:2008/1212/Opinion]

December 1 2008

Abdullah Al-Wazir
The political standoff between the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) and the ruling General People's Congress (GPC) continues to escalate with the former insisting to stage projects rejecting the voter registration process, currently undertaken by the latter and its government. The opposition coalition also distributes publications encouraging citizens to boycott the process.

The GPC, on the other hand, has taken other procedures by employing security personnel to disperse protests against the voter registration and arrest some JMP activists. In Taiz governorate, the security authorities arrested two members of the Taizziya District's local council Mohammed Ali Saeed and Mohammed Yasser Ali, who are affiliated with the Islah and Yemeni Socialist parties, over their participation in a sit-in organized by the JMP against the voter registration process.

These actions are not limited to Taiz as there are other protests and sit-ins staged by JMP supporters in other governorates where the authorities order security personnel to disperse protesters or arrest them. Sometimes, the security troops fire live bullets at protesters leaving some killed.

In other southern governorates, most notably those witnessing the effective presence of political activists and leaders, the situation looks totally different. Acts in these governorates are not only in the form of protests and advocacies for boycotting the voter registration process, as protesters reject the presence of voter registration staff in their areas for reasons that have nothing to do with the JMP, which claims that the election system be reformed.

Political activists and leaders in southern governorates reject the presence of voter registration staff in their areas for particular demands that remain unmet, which results in armed attacks against the staff and clashes with security personnel.

The situation is catastrophic in both cases, and therefore needs workable solutions, most notably as the Constitution and laws are violated by security personnel, who arrested peaceful protesters or those who distribute JMP publications inviting people to boycott the voter registration process in some governorates. Frankly speaking, security personal commit massive legal violations.

Citizens are entitled to boycott the voter registration process and encourage others to do so like the ruling party and its government are entitled to call on citizens to go to voter registration centers. In some governorates, the Constitution and laws are violated by those who practice violence against voter registration staff to hinder progress of the process. Those individuals have no right to behave this way, nor are they entitled to prevent any citizens from approaching voter registration centers.

During his visit to Abyan governorate, Brig. Yahya Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, President Saleh's nephew, said that citizens are not entitled to boycott the process. He also affirmed that others are not entitled to prevent citizens to go to registration centers.

All parties must be law-abiding

The words uttered by the President's nephew reflect the democratic right of all parties, which are all, be they security personnel or those practicing violence against voter registration staff, recommend to prove their being law-abiding people.

We put the blame on those who spark violence to hinder the voter registration process, but this must not blind us against violations committed by security personnel in arresting peaceful protestors. This is unacceptable. The problem needs intervention of judicious people to solve it according to the Constitution as the only applicable reference. This is what we always urge to have taken place.

Stressing the necessity of applying the constitutional reference, nobody, even senior government officials, is allowed to violate the Constitution and laws put into effect. All parties involved should abide by this reference if they want to have their disagreements and discrepancies settled.

Source: Al-Balagh Weekly.