Bajammal:  The Role of Opposition is a Consultative One Opposition: We are Back in The Age of Political Monopoly [Archives:2001/31/Law & Diplomacy]

July 30 2001

During the third round of dialogues between the government and opposition parties the Prime Minister Mr. Abdudulqadir Bajammal said that they merely had an advisory role and that the government was not obliged to consider their views.
Prime Minster, Bajammal stressed that the government was entitled to tackle democracy-related issues in accordance with its assigned rights and duties without being obliged to seek or exchange views with other related parties. Ultimately, this means that the government is not obliged to consider the views of the political opposition regarding national issues presented for discussion. The political parties offered different views related to elections in Yemen and asked the government to ensure a healthy democratic atmosphere when conducting them.
Clearly, then, the government is not serious in conducting a real dialogue and does not want to discuss the necessary requirements for conducting free and fair elections.
Abdulbari Taher
Undoubtedly, the last step taken by the government will have a very negative impact on democracy, freedom and the peaceful transfer of power. It is a paradox that even tribal sheiks share their tribesmen’s views while the supposedly democratic government of Yemen is not even willing to listen to the views of other parties as part of the democratic process. It seems that the government has convinced itself of its own fabricated lie on the existence of democratic institutions in Yemen. If real democracy and an independent judiciary were to exist then it would be easy to refute such allegations and other fictions aimed at misleading public opinion and the international community.
The opposition parties have presented several valid demands for creating a real democratic atmosphere to conduct elections, expressing the will of the electorate. As usual, however, the government declined these demands.
With the last constitutional amendments the government has aimed a heavy and fatal stroke at the democratic process in Yemen. These amendments are an obvious prelude to totalitarianism, which seems to be on the increase in the Yemeni political system.
The most powerful tool for protecting democracy must come from the various popular organizations, academics, imams and others who influence popular opinion, since the opposition parties in their present state are unable to do anything. Since the opposition parties are in no position to defend democracy adequately, but only seek to curry favor with, and obtain benefits from the government, they are completely unable to prevent the new government trend of marginalizing the role of opposition parties. In this case, election boycotting must be undertaken by popular organizations and not opposition parties, since such boycotts are more likely to have wider grass-roots support and also to uncover the democratic facade erected by the government. A government which welcomes dialogue with kidnappers, bandits and other criminals but refuses to treat equally with constitutionally recognized political forces which derive their legitimacy from the will of the people can neither be trusted nor respected. Similarly, the elections called for by the government should be turned into a funeral and all-out boycott by everyone, and not just the political opposition.
The thing which should be borne in mind here is that a weak opposition is the major factor encouraging the government to go further in its anti-constitutional breaches and ignoring the demands of civil society.
Saif Sael, the Assistant Secretary-General of the YSP
It seems that the government is not willing to participate in serious dialogue on important national issues. It is also essential to resolve issues related to the aftermath of the 1994 civil war and to achieve a general reconciliation. The neutrality of official media organs is fundamental for a healthy democratic atmosphere. Similarly, the formation of the Supreme Election Committee (SEC) should be based on the representation of different political parties involved in the democratic process and not only be restricted to the ruling party.
Abdulrahman Ba Fadhel
Unfortunately, the Prime Minister set out on the right path by preserving democratic principles when he called the opposition to jointly discuss constitutional amendments related to the Supreme Election Committee. But we were surprised by his last declaration, which propelled us back thirty years to the era of political monopoly.
In his paper presented on behalf of the government, Bajammal stressed the government’s inalienable right to deal with matters related to political development without even consulting other political parties within the democratic process. Dr. Abdulrahman Ba Fathal expressed his concern over the future of democracy in Yemen, saying that the political arena was becoming increasingly restricted. He added that this was so for a number of reasons:
a lack of equilibrium due to the boycotting of the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) in the last parliamentary elections,
non-participation of a wide segment of society registered to vote,
the high level of biased participation by the military, based on their affiliation to the General People Congress and its needs in various constituencies,
the new roles of the Supreme Election Committee,
the government’s unwillingness to proceed with institutionalizing democracy, represented by anti-democratic measures such as the following:
a – a lack of press freedom,
b – interfering in the syndicates’ affairs in a manipulative manner,
c – preventing university professors from electing university rectors and faculty deans, on the pretext that this is not an efficient or appropriate way of distributing senior university posts,
We withdrew from that parliamentary session on the principle that democracy is the lesser of two evils.
If the educated Yemeni elite do not act appropriately one day the government will itself be able to make the claim that others do not practice democracy well and will call for the cessation of democracy, which is modern Yemen’s most precious and glorious achievement.
Ayman M. Thabit, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of al-Tariq Newspaper
In my opinion what you call the “new development in the government’s policies” is a danger to democratic policies and aims at a monopoly over the decision-making process by the People’s General Congress (GPC). I think that the superiority assumed by the GPC over the opposition parties is due to its’ being the only political party that knows what it wants and works according to definite goals and guidelines.
Any observer of the political situation in Yemen will have noticed that the GPC has been trying from start to monopolize and dominate the political arena of Yemen through various means.
After the GPC won the 1997 elections with an overwhelming majority it acquired the means to proceed with its monopolist policies. In my opinion it is the opposition parties themselves who are partly responsible for this situation.
I believe that there is nothing new has been introduced in the constitutional amendments, since the GPC has an overwhelming majority, as I mentioned earlier, and for this reason it was able to by-pass these amendments. Moreover, through different means the GPC has been able to streamline the elections in a way which favors itself.
I have been following the different rounds of dialogues in which the government attempted to justify its desire to amend the constitution on the pretext that shortcomings exist in the previous law. Similarly the Supreme Election Committee and its different departments played a major role in running the election in favor of the GPC.
It is widely known that the GPC has always succeeded in winning the lion’s share in earlier elections, and so invalidated the results of the previous elections.
Regarding the issue of the Supreme Elections Committee and its sub-divisions (initially formed according to the representation of the various political parties), here again the GPC takes the lion’s share. The People’s General Congress would like to form the Supreme Election Committee (SEC) through appointment and not proportional representation, so that its own members will form the executive authority. This tactic was opposed by the opposition, but unfortunately this opposition was taken from two standpoints:
1) The parties affiliating to the Supreme Coordination Council for the Opposition Parties, in addition to the Islah Party, demand that they themselves form the SEC through the representation of the major parties.
2) The parties affiliated to the National Council for Opposition, in addition to the League of Sons of Yemen (Rai) , would like to form the SEC through the representation of all the 22 registered political parties. I myself would like to ask the Supreme Coordination Council what are the criteria according to which we can judge whether this party is active or not?
And here I’d like to stress that the formation of the SEC through appointment should be entirely rejected. As far as the announcement of the Prime Minister Bajammal is concerned, it is obvious that the GPC is so confident that it will be able to pass any amendments on the constitution, whether legal or illegal, as long as it has an overwhelming majority.
Hassan Abdulwareth from the Yemeni Journalist Syndicate
It is widely known that neither the amended constitution nor the government programs or other official commitments oblige the government to consider the views of opposition parties or non-official institutions. The latest dialogue between the government and the opposition parties was no more than a meeting session, which illustrates the fabricated relation between the government and the opposition parties. This relation dates back to a couple of years ago and has been characterized as being of no avail at the end of each discussion. The government will continue to govern and the opposition will continue to oppose. This is the the political situation in Yemen, which in my opinion will continue for ever.