Constitutional Amendments Into Focus [Archives:2001/08/Law & Diplomacy]

February 19 2001

Dr. Ali Mohammad Al-Saqqaf 
Before unity: 
In the 1990 constitution of the YAR there were two articles pertaining to the local administration and administrative units and local councils; article No. (109) concerning local administration and its divisions and article No (110) concerning administrative units and local councils. However, the latter, article No. (110) did not clarify whether these councils should be elected. Contrary to this, the 1978 constitution of the PDRY chapter No. (4) was specific on this issue. The Local Institutions of the state were considered to be the local councils of the people. They were to be elected by the people in a free and fair election and through secret voting in all electoral constituencies in accordance with article No. (112). Article No. (114) defined the scope of the People’s Local Councils’ activities, to work within their regions to develop and improve the social, economic and cultural dimensions in accordance with the plans drawn up and the local budget. People’s Local Councils were also to monitor and observe the work of institutions affiliated with them. They were also to elect executive officers in accordance with law No. (115). 
Article No. (117) specified that members of the People’s Local Councils were the people’s representatives in these councils. Article No. (118) emphasized that institutions of the centralized government were to support and develop these councils. They were also to expand their authorities through transferring more and more power and authority from central government. 
After unity: 
In the light of these two samples of the then two parts of Yemen, the 1990 constitution of the unified Yemen adopted an article similar to that in the constitution of PDRY. However, it was not implemented. 
Article (118) of the constitution specified the election of local council members. However, the same article indicated that the duties and authorities of these councils are to be defined by law. The constitution of the PDRY was quite specific in terms of defining a constitutional text for this issue and not through a law stipulating their election. The constitution of the PDRY also looked at them as people’s representatives in these councils, making it mandatory for the state to support, develop their work and expand their authority. That means that the constitution was to ban laws restricting their activities. However, the way local councils members were elected and the law defined their authorities and duties in the new amendments was a setback for the constitution of the unified Yemen. 
There has been a qualitative development in the constitutional amendments for 1994 when compared to the constitution of unity and that of the PDRY in the sense that the former endorsed electing directors of the administrative units and members of the local councils. The new constitutional amendment for 2000 actually calls for abolishing the provision of electing the directors of administrative units and has stipulated their appointment by the authority. 
The other thing is that the constitution of the unified Yemen authorized the Cabinet to hold governors accountable. Constitutional amendments for 1994 attributed the president as the first party, along with the Cabinet, to hold governors accountable. 
To conclude, in both the constitutions of the then two countries and in the constitution of the united Yemen, including the amendments, there has been an emphasis on dividing the administrative division of the RY. Despite the fact that there have been some laws pertaining to this in the then two parts of Yemen, the political policies among the ruling parties prevented reaching a compromise formula based on an objective standard to divide the republic into governorates or districts. This situation poses a big question mark over organizing local councils in the absence of a law dividing the republic. 
This might be the reason behind some international organizations not taking part in monitoring the local elections. The constitutional amendments themselves are a violation of the effective constitution, particularly in the matter of extending the Parliament and the President’s term for two extra years. This, in fact, contradicts the principle of election and the peaceful transfer of power.