Both complain bitterly about registration irregularities Ruling GPC and Opposition prepare for election war [Archives:2002/44/Front Page]

October 28 2002

Yemen’s parliamentary elections of April, 2003 are already gearing up to be more competitive – and potentially bloody – between the ruling GPC and its opposition parties.
This fight has already started now with a voter registration process underway for a month, and already full of formal complaints from both sides.
The GPC and opposition parties, of which Islah is the largest, have exchanged media barrages accusing each other of counterfeiting the registration payroll and violating election laws. The PGC has even accused the Islah party of calling for Jihad against democracy.
Heated competition for registering voters has resulted in confrontations to the extent of closing some registration centers. The opposition parties have threatened that they would boycott elections if the violations continue on the GPC.
It’s accused the government of mobilizing the military and school students to register in constituencies which it believes have less publicity. The opposition has also complained to President Saleh that the Supreme Elections Committee (SEC) is siding with the ruling party.
The president interfered last week and ordered the SEC to uphold the law and constitution.
In a round-table debate last week, Dr. Hameed al-Awadhi, Head of the Cultural and Information Department of the GPC, stressed that the military is neutral according to the law that bans the involvement of the military in political parties. He denied any influence on the part of the government on the military.
He said mobilizing people for registration does not mean they will all vote for the ruling party candidates, and al-Awadhi also pointed out that the law allows military personnel to obtain a voting card.
However, the opposition says military members were moved from one place to another using planes, and they were threatened they would not receive their salary unless they get voting cards from centers assigned to them.
Alawadhi said this is an exaggeration and that instead of having a media barrage between political parties, they should go and work on the ground, educating people about the importance of practicing their democratic rights.
He pointed out that the problem is social rather than political, and that it’s too early to say the registration payroll is counterfeited as the process of registration is not yet complete.
Mr. Abdu al-Janadi, head of the media department at the SEC, said every experience should have some shortcomings and abuses which are committed by both the ruling party and the opposition. But, he confirmed that the 2003 election is shaping up to very competitive, and that the gathering of the opposition is a guarantee for fairness of the payroll.
He stressed that the SEC would file a case against the abusers of the registration process and the SEC has already transferred 23 complaints to the prosecution.
Mohammed Jassar, from the Sons of Yemen League Party, said there was internal and international pressure on the ruling party to change the voting payroll which was said to have been counterfeited. He said the GPC is afraid that there might be a big gap in number of voters in the two voting payrolls, and the difference shows that the last payroll was not fair.
According to Jassar, the GPC is working hard to mobilize people to register their names. He said all parties are responsible for these abuses, but he said the SEC is the main bearer of responsibility, as it defends such violations.
He stressed that 30 per cent of the registered people right now are bellow the age of 18, and that the SEC should put the lists of names on the web so as to enable everybody to review them.
Mohammed al-Sabri, political analyst, called the GPC to stop the violations of sheikhs, security directors, governors and others, which will affect the voting payroll. He said the opposition has documented these violations of the ruling party.
All this points to a heated, if not bloody, 2003 elections. It may be a matter of life and death for the opposition, which is afraid that the GPC intends to destroy all other parties.
Both the PGC and the opposition have pushed their leading members early campaigning.
Sources say the GPC will nominate Dr. Abdul Kareem al-Iryani and Abdulaziz Abdulghani to run. The sources also say the GPC intends to take over the role of the parliament speaker, now held by Islah chairman Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ahmar. He’s been speaker since the 1993 elections.
Abdulghani is probably to take over the speaker position while Iryani might go for the Shura council, according to the sources.
The socialist party has pushed its secretary general Saleh Ubad, Mohammed Ghalib to run for elections in their governorates.
According to the SEC, the number of the registered voters has climbed past five million. Almost two million are women.