calls for comprehensive reformsJMP opposes gubernatorial elections [Archives:2008/1147/Local News]

April 17 2008

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam

SANA'A, April 16 ) The Joint Meeting Parties are opposing amendments to the Local Authority Law to elect governors whom Parliament approved Tuesday at the request of the National Defense Council.

The JMP's Higher Council describes such legal amendments as “just a decorating project” with no real meaning, adding that such amendments contravene direct and free elections stipulated in the Yemeni Constitution.

The JMP council considers these legal amendments part of formal procedures taken by the authority in an attempt to reduce nationwide political congestion resulting from its own poor policies.

Opposition parties accuse these poor policies of encouraging the increase of such political congestion and worsening dire situations across the nation.

In a statement distributed following a news conference Monday, a copy of which the Yemeni Times has obtained, the JMP Higher Council declared its strenuous objection to holding the Parliament-sanctioned gubernatorial elections, denouncing what it describes as “a misleading campaign” conducted by official media to deceive the Yemeni people.

The council also objected to the authority's attempt to lead the nation into an unannounced clampdown by replacing constitutional institutions with the National Defense Council.

Further, it condemned “illegal decisions and measures” banning demonstrations, protests and sit-ins – all of which the Yemeni Constitution ensures – holding the authority accountable for notable human rights abuses, democratic violations and constraints upon public freedoms.

The opposition coalition demands the Yemeni government seriously address worsening issues in the southern governorates by resolving the 1994 Civil War-related consequences, which have remained unchecked until now.

It further called for reforming the nation's system of governance to cope with growing demands over time, eradicating all forms of corruption and oppression, enhancing transfer of power and sharing decision making among the various political forces.

The opposition parties insist that the authority must initiate election reforms in order to ensure integrity and transparency in the upcoming parliamentary elections, as well as create an effective mechanism for change and peaceful transfer of power.

The JMP statement strongly condemned the crackdown and intimidation of citizens through heavy deployment of military troops and equipment, as well as arrest campaigns against human rights activists, opposition leaders and peaceful protestors in the various southern governorates and Taiz, labeling such actions as “unconstitutional procedures” aimed at aborting peaceful struggle and the available yet slim democratic margin.

The statement urged the authorities to pull troops out of major cities and roads, reform numerous dire situations and release all political detainees in various security and military jails nationwide.

The JMP Higher Council lashed out at government indifference and inability to improve citizens' poor living standards and control soaring prices for basic foodstuffs and other consumables, which has increased people's concerns and worsened their miseries.

“The government has failed to fulfill its promises made in the 2006 elections to fight all forms of corruption and improve citizens' living standards,” the council's statement went on to say.

JMP member parties reaffirmed their united position on rejecting all forms of force and violence in political life and renewed their adherence to peaceful and democratic struggle, as guaranteed by the Yemeni Constitution, to help oppressed citizens freely express themselves and voice their concerns.

Parliament on Tuesday approved Article 38 of 2000's Law No. 4 regarding the Local Authority after it amended specific articles related to electing governors and mayors of the capital city.

According to the article, a governor will be given the rank of minister, as well as elected via secret ballot by local councilors in governorates and districts. Following his win, the governor-elect then will be appointed by republican decree and commence his duties after being sworn in before the president.

The article establishes a minimum legal age of 40 for any gubernatorial applicant, adding that the applicant must have a university certificate (or any certificate equivalent to a university degree) and no less than 10 years' professional experience following graduation.

Some Taiz local councilors told media outlets that Parliament's amendments to the Local Authority Law don't represent a successful move in the experience of local governance with broad powers.

However, they stressed that granting local councils full power and allowing them to work independently in drawing up sustainable development policies will be a turning point toward enhancing community partnership and increasing public awareness.

“Having local councilors elect governors doesn't reflect a notable achievement, as claimed by President Ali Abdullah Saleh's platform and his local governance-related initiative,” the local councilors commented, adding that the gubernatorial elections may not end the current security turmoil, address dire situations or reduce nationwide poverty and unemployment.