Democracy’s price [Archives:2003/633/Viewpoint]

April 27 2003

For the first time in years, a sense of optimism has been felt throughout Yemen concerning Yemen's democratic process. Elections have been to a large extent carried out fairly compared to earlier elections. Competition between the ruling party and its closest opposition rival has been as tense as can be. In many constituencies, results could have gone either way. People have been able to rally for opposition parties so openly using all sorts of media organs including TV and radio.
Yes, there may have been some shortcomings, and indeed there may have been abuses by state-run media organs, but overall, there is improvement in the awareness of voters and transparency of this year's elections.
Opposition parties themselves have expressed relative satisfaction with the preparations and organization of the elections. Much fewer complaints were filed compared to earlier elections. This in itself is a sign that we are moving in the right path.
I just hope that opposition parties would rather encourage the positive steps taken rather than ignore them and simply attack the government on every occasion.
There is no doubt that President Saleh has become quite convinced that democracy in its glorious meaning is the right way to build a free and prosperous country. We are proud that President Saleh emerged as the president for all Yemenis. He has not sided directly or indirectly with or against any of the competing parties and candidates. This expresses a degree of maturity that reflects a wise commitment to democratizing Yemen fully and with no reservations. It is simply an irreversible path, and President Saleh has been and must always be neutral when it comes to elections because he is the president of the whole country with all the parties and entities representing it.
President Saleh should also accept the results no matter how they are. If his own party the General People's Congress (GPC) gets defeated in any of the districts, then he should accept this as the price to pay in any democracy. The days when the GPC was the sole and only power center has gone, and now there is room for others to participate if Yemenis want them to.
The spirit of democracy and freedom should be implanted in leaders of all political parties, especially the ruling party. Everything depends on the will of the people. If the public doesn't want the GPC to go on ruling on its own, then they have the right to vote for the opposition so as to have a share in ruling the new government. However, if the people continue to support the GPC to represent the government alone, let it be.
I personally believe that if the GPC loses seats to the opposition, then that would only enhance the president's reputation and not the contrary because it is he who insisted on making the elections free and hence allowing free competition.
President Saleh has realized that in order to have a true democracy, there should always be sacrifice and giving away of room for others to participate.
Every democracy has a price, and I am glad that our leadership has realized that.