As JMP boycotts voter registration committeesFears grow over possibility of postponing upcoming elections [Archives:2008/1206/Front Page]

November 10 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SANA'A, Nov. 9 ) Electoral committees, currently in charge of reviewing and correcting voter registers, face numerous obstacles hindering their performance in many governorates including Sa'ada, Lahj, Al-Dhalea, Hajja, Mahwit and Ibb. The situation has increased fears over the possibility of postponing the upcoming parliamentary elections.

In Sa'ada, one of Al-Houthi loyalists told the Yemen Times by phone that they will not allow voter registration committees to begin their job unless the government rescues refugees, reconstructs houses and other infrastructure damaged by the four-year fighting between the army and Houthi gunmen.

Leadership of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) sent a memo to branches of its member parties countrywide urging them to continue boycotting voter registration committees. It also informed JMP member parties' branches in Sa'ada to continue to boycott what they described as “illegitimate voter registration committees”, adding that the upcoming electoral process will be rigged, and the government must first compensate citizens whose property was damaged during the conflict.

In the Dhalea governorate, the so-called Peaceful Action Body in the Shuaib district organized a huge sit-in in front of premises of the Main Election Committee. The sit-in is the first peaceful event launched by the body that strongly rejects and boycotts the voter registration committees. Participants chanted slogans strongly denouncing the upcoming electoral process.

The protesters released a statement confirming their unaltered decision of boycotting all the electoral process and its committees, which they described as “illegitimate”. They added that it is their legal right to boycott and reject a rigged electoral process which they describe as “a comedy”.

“We don't accept to be used as tools for acting in such a comic play; we don't want ballot boxes to be graves for burial of evident concerns in South Yemen,” the statement read. “We don't seek an election whose price is paid by noble people and fruits are reaped by corrupt individuals.”

The statement applauded the male and female teachers in the governorate who refused to participate in voter registration committees. It called on teachers in other governorates to take a similar stance and demanded that these committees be removed from schools in order not to hinder students' progress.

In Lahj, tribal leaders last week approved a specific date to protest in front of premises of the Main Electoral Committee in the governorate. From his side, the Lahj governor ordered directors of Hebail Jabr and Radfan districts to calm tension in both districts following rioting during a students' protest against the use of their school by voter registration committees.

Hundreds of students from the Muntaser High School in Hebail, Jabr district took to the streets chanting slogans demanding the government remove the voter registration committee from their school.

In Ibb, the Islah Party Shoura Council's branch expressed their strong denunciation of President Saleh's alleged bias with his party, the ruling General People Congress (GPC), affirming that Saleh's partiality had worsened the current political crisis in the country. It also expressed sorrow about what it called “individualized steps” taken by the ruling party to compose the Supreme Commission for Election and Referendum (SCER) and other unconstitutional procedures in this regard. The party branch called on citizens across the governorate to boycott the voter registration process and any other procedures taken by the illegitimate SCER.

In a live-broadcast interview with a foreign satellite news channel, Chairman of Supreme National Consultation Committee Sheikh Hamid Al-Ahmar, who is also a Parliament member from the JMP, said, “The ruling party's feeling that the elections are not going in its favor made it hinder JMP's engagement in the process by refusing to respond to constitutional and legal demands raised by the opposition coalition.”

Al-Ahmar continued to say that the ruling party had reached no successful achievements throughout its long term in power. “What successes have been made by the ruling party? Poverty, crises, conflicts or an ailing economy?” he questioned.

The Parliament member added, “We consider the upcoming elections as a coup against democracy. We did not oppose the elections until the ruling party breached an agreement we reached with it at Parliament to amend the election law.”

Al-Ahmar went on to say that JMP member parties have clear alternatives, which are to respect the Constitution, law, and principles of the unity state, improve democracy, endorse equal citizenship rights, peaceful transfer of power, and free and fair elections.

“We will continue the peaceful struggle for the sake of improving democracy and conducting free and fair elections,” Al-Ahmar added. “JMP member parties represent an ideal example for all Yemenis as they unify for the sake of the nation.”