Constitutional Amendments: Legislation Vacuum [Archives:2000/35/Viewpoint]

August 28 2000

The Parliament endorsed the principle of the constitutional amendments suggested by President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The draft amendment includes 15 articles. The most important amendment is that the President would be entitled to dissolve the parliament without having referendum. His tenure in office and that of MPs would be extended to 7 and 6 years respectively. The Shoura council, replacing the Consultative Council whose members are appointed by the President, would limit the powers of the parliament.
In the final analysis, political parties are split over the suggested amendments. Some observe the amendments as a means to serve interests of the big guys at the power center. The Opposition represented by the Opposition Coordination Council could not take any positive and tangible stance towards this serious issue. And even if they oppose them, they will not be able to do anything since the ruling party, PGC, enjoys crashing majority in the parliament which enables it to carry out any amendments and pass any law. But the bond between the PGC and Islah party seems to be very strong not to be affected by the recent disagreements over Al-Thaqafiah newspaper issue. However, the PGC leadership is clever enough to have the amendments endorsed by the political spectrum including the opposition.
The government gave groundless justifications for the amendments. It said MPs would have enough time (6 years) to carry out their tasks. We do not know what tasks to take such a long span of time at a time in which parliamentarians tenure in office is minimized to 3 years only. We believe if our MPs who do not attend most of the debates of the parliament are punctual, they will have more than enough time to do their job effectively.
To drive the point home, our problem in Yemen is a legislation vacuum. The parliament has been busying itself since the unification in 1990 in passing laws which have not seen the light of day. Moreover, most of the issued laws have been subject to several amendments which indicates an impromptu legislative pursuit Yemen is living. The Constitution itself has not been implemented in letter and spirit for the last ten years. More worse, the new amendments in the constitution would entail amendments in our laws which means wasting a lot of time in passing and amending laws which are never put on practice.
The government newspapers justified the amendments and described them as an omen of development. We do not know what they mean by the term development. Is it a legislative development? If so, what development is achieved in our laws if they are now practically replaced by Tahkeem and tribal Urf ( social norm of sorting out problems). In short, Yemen does need applied laws.