Dialectics of Local Government and Unity [Archives:2000/14/Law & Diplomacy]

April 3 2000

By: Ali Saif Hassan
Assistant Secretary General,
Nasserite Unionist Party

If we take cursory glance at the United Yemeni State, and its status on the 22nd of May, our attention cannot but be focussed on the free democratic local government. If this prominent national institution represents the common denominator between the members of the Opposition Coordination Council in general, the concern of unification at the local and national levels justifies our concern in the political arena at the People’s Nasserite Party.
The central issue of the free local government as a guarantee of preserving the stability of unity, and stability has made us pay big price for this and has given it a high position in our political agenda. Our political program, drafted in 1990, provides that the free local government is the essence of people’s democracy. The program also confirmed on the necessity of the direct election for the rulers and governors.
From this view point, my paper attempt to take its origin and seeks to clarify the coordination and harmonization between this national and human demands.
God’s Sunna is manifested in three main phenomena, namely, merging, unification, and fission. In the field of physical sciences, the phenomenon of merging and fission lead to explosion, while unification of smallest ingredients is the sole aspects that preserves continuation.
Unification is effected through the following:
– Preserving the features and movement of those united parts. As a result of this scientific truth, we can say that the political entities even in spite of its absence organizing the relation between the parts that form merging and fission.
I am not necessarily confined to political phenomena but cover all the human relationships, whether at family or professional organizations. We have to take in to consideration the different forms of human relationship including that involving the political systems, which do not strictly adhere to the principles that govern this relation.
The democratic system of the local government does not represent only the constitutional right and national demand, but also coordination and harmonization with God’s Sunna. As far as the human aspect is concerned including human rights, the right of citizens to choose their rulers represents the most important right and the key for other human rights.
So, the democratic local government should in fitness of things represent other human rights as well.
At the national level, the experiments of the Arab Unity between Egypt and Syria gives us a sample of the importance of the local government in order to preserve unity and give protection from any internal or external aggression. However, we can say that the internal and external violation was the main reason of conflict between Egypt and Syria, but the absence of democratic system for the local government denied existence of United Arab Republic.
After this review in support of importance of the free local government at the national and humanitarian levels, in conjunction with God’s Sunna, let me move to a discussion on the issue of Yemeni Unity at the national level. I also try to show the justifications for the local government to be a free system.
An objective reading of the history of political systems in Yemen illustrates the relation between the political system in Yemen and the different parts of that system. The components of that system are seen expanding despite centralization.
Centralization is the common denominator for the weakness and laceration of all Yemeni political entities throughout the Yemeni history. If we view the contemporary history for more than 70-years of people’s struggle, free local government has been the main demand of all the political and social forces. Our ancestors; Al-Noman and Zubairi confirm this matter. We can say that local government has occupied the focus of attention of the Yemeni society along the history. Resistance in its different forms and means has represented the struggle of the Yemeni people during the contemporary history.
The demand for democratic local government has been a hall mark of our national aspiration. The treaty of agreement represents the fulfillment that aspiration for the local government. That was the most appropriate solution for the government in Yemen, and the united political entity.
The essential implication for government, as it was written in the treaty of agreement, was one of the most important national legislation that was supported by people inside the country and abroad. These aspects represent the general environment for local government which can achieve Yemeni people’s demands.
The commitment of parties and their leaders confirmed in as outlined in their electoral programs for the year 1993, the necessity of local government. It is the commitment of the president to the Yemeni people and to the further strengthen by world that there must be a democratic local government in which people can have the right to choose their rulers and punish them for any mistake. This commitment also confirmed giving the right to the local councils to achieve the aspiration of the Yemeni people through development and abolishing corruption and underdevelopment.
The importance of the local government does not only represent the constitutional right and the historical demand, for protection of the Yemeni unity, but it is a unique system which is able to achieve the political, social, and economic advantages to the Yemeni people.
After this review ,we have to study the law of local authority. We have also to closely scrutinize law and causes of the lack of infrastructures of the free local government.
AS far as the democratic aspect of the law is concerned, and the right for people to choose their local rulers, this law is different from article no (143) concerning appointing rulers and governors. This article says that the local law must include the procedures of nominating a candidate, electing, and choosing chairmen of the administrative units. This article has formulated after a long debate between alliance the parties after the reordering of the constitution. It presents a compromise between the direct election for the administrative units chairmen and their appointment. The nomination of the candidates is provided to be on the basis of the winner in the first positions. This law prevented local councils from appointing executive chairmen to those administrative units. They are appointed as chairmen for the elected councils. However, this law deviated from the article (144), which provided that those local councils with its members must be elected by directly citizens.
Hence, the recent local authority law violated the constitution. It is devoid of any democratic content. This creates doubt in the minds of citizens about the success of the democratic process as a means of achieving the peaceful of authority. They are worried about the results of local and parliamentary elections, so these represent serious dangers to the democratic process.
Regarding ensuring permanent peace, this law was devoid of any mechanism to liberate the local authority institutions from their present predicament.
In addition to the absence of the minimum level of democratic norms in this law, the elections system of the local councils was designed to break the social relation in villages and towns and create tension between people there. This is triggered by the breaking of districts into small electoral units.
Why does the authority turn their back on people’s demand for getting democratic local self-government? Why has the authority been rejecting this demand during the past seventeen-years, although each authority claims that it is better than the previous set-up?
An objective analysis of the issue reveals the malaise of the people in power in Yemen during the past seventeen-years. This is inherited the weakness lack of self-confidence of this authority.
Weakness is the main reason that has so far refused local government, except for one limited period in the South part of Yemen where we found stability and self-confidence that has enabled them to establish local self-government.
If that is the attitude of the local authority in general, the present authority cannot be forced to accept these demands, although they hijack democratic values from the government.
* This article was presented as a paper to the workshop on Local Governance organized by the Al-Shoura newspaper