Dr. Al- Mutawakil to YT: “Unity has been accomplished at the hands of an elite group which is not an actively affiliated to any unionist movement” [Archives:2001/28/Law & Diplomacy]

July 9 2001

Dealing with the issue of Yemen’s unity, I emphasized in my earlier articles that the goal of achieving Yemeni unity has always been the dominant trend of the people’s will, nevertheless it has been accomplished at the hands of an elite group which is not an actively affiliated to any unionist movement. That elite did not concentrate on the idea and method of how Yemen should be united, but rather on how to share power.
In an exclusive interview to Yemen Times Mr Al- Mutawakil says the Socialist party, a major partner in the process of unification, entered the project while primarily concerned with demarcating partition. Members of the other faction concentrated on strategically positioning the armed forces. Both partners were at loggerheads with each other on the issue of who was to gain the most. That is how the conflict started. Personally, I consider it to be a power struggle, one that neither favors the unity of Yemen nor the aim of secessionism.
When the crisis erupted the Committee of Dialogue intervened in a conciliatory attempt to revitalize the foundations on which unity was established and to re-align it on the right track. For that purpose a “Pledge & Reconciliation” policy had been worked out to build the unity edifice, institutions of the integrated state, not that of the ruling elite, whether of the north or of the south.
Regrettably the eruption of the 1994 war undermined the balance that could have been maintained inside which new forces could be developed along a patriotic line. That war had destroyed Yemen ‘s potential and marred its reputation.
Yemen had by then acquired a good international standing as a country that had managed to reunite through peaceful democratic dialogue. Alas, we have destroyed that enviable reputation as well as the country’s potential and capabilities that we were in such need of expanding and developing. The armies of both north and south were decimated in a month. For thirty years huge resources were spent to improve the army. Consequently, Yemen became vulnerable to external aggression. Internal conflict led to the loss of control over its decision-making structures. The fact is that both parties were in need of a third party on which to depend against its other Yemeni adversary, and that, consequently, led to concessions in its decisions to its support. The positive thing at that stage was that unity was associated with democracy, which was rather a casualty because the elite that approved of unity was of a totalitarian orientation rather than a democratic one. Its practices were non-democratic and not congruent with reality. But that was something which had become a fact, and so it could not retract from either its behavior or mode of thinking. This is why we find the ruling elite beginning efforts to phase out democracy.
Prior to the war of 1994, the constitution maintained a balance of political forces, which collapsed following that war. The trend was marked for constitutional amendment. So the presidency council was abolished and then recreated as a post to be occupied by a single person, with the right to have a sway over the executive power. More than that, they vested chairmanship of the supreme council of the judiciary with the President. He would have power to draw up judiciary policy, as well as appoint and transfer judges. In other words the judiciary has become an institution which is subject to the presidency. The parliament was kept out of the process of control owing to the nominal balance between the PGC and the Islah parties during a certain stage. This balance eventually collapsed in 1997.
Whenever a certain balance fails, it affects the constitution. So it is no wonder that there was a move to amend the constitution so as to limit the powers of the national parliament, which itself is vested with the authority to nominate the head of state as well as to impeach him. It gives sustenance to the government and has the power to withdraw it. The parliament forms legislation and endorses agreements and treaties. The president of the Republic can not curtail the parliament’s powers in order to dissolve it, since first of all the holding of a referendum is necessary. So the ruling elite deemed it to be a constitutionally strong establishment, although in practice that was not so. Thus a Shoura council was created and certain legislative powers and parliamentary authorities were delegated to it. At present it shares with the parliament certain powers in matters of:
-the nomination of the president,
-discussion of the general plan,
Issues under the purview of the parliament. As a result the President currently possesses 111 votes inside the parliament. So the PGC needs only 200 votes to obtain a sweeping majority.
Local Government & Law Amendments
The law of local government has given authority to the President of the Republic to appoint the governor, who is at the same time chairman of the local council. He also has the authority to dissolve these councils. This means that all institutions of the state are subject to the control of the presidency, thus nullifying the concept of the modern institutional state.
The conflict between broadening individual powers and authorities of institutions has, in fact, been going on since the thirties until the present.
The 1948 movement represented an attempt to limit the authorities of the individual, widening the powers of establishments, to found a Shoura council and install a government. The revolution led to the drafting of the 1962 constitution which granted wide-ranging authorities to the President. Mr Al-Zubairi and other personalities held the Amran conference in an attempt to limit the powers granted to the President at the beginning of the revolution and then introduced a new constitution in 1963. That constitution somewhat limited those powers in favor of the appropriate institutions, but it was not enough. Then there were the 1964 and 1965 constitutions in Khamr. The latter had actually managed to take powers away from the President and gave them back to the institutions. The 1970 constitution to some extent endorsed the situation, but the June 13 movement suspended the constitution, and attempted to introduce some reforms by recommending:
-reform committees
-a people’s congress (which was under preparation and was said to be on the point of initiating the process of democracy, although there was not enough time to test whether the interior was serious or not.) That was followed by elections of the PGC and the National Charter and thus the introduction of political pluralism. Nowadays we are experiencing the domination of the individual powers at the expense of institutions’, a matter which has rendered democracy to be merely nominal. Institutionally the situation is similar to that which prevailed during the forties.
With regard to development, it is reasonable to assume that in the present situation actual development cannot be achieved unless there is an efficient and active administration, which, in fact, is what the Agreement and Pledge Treaty sought. That treaty clearly showed that our administration was bad because, in the first place, its structural composition was not constitutional. The constitution stipulates that all executive apparatuses should be in the control of the premiership, but they are now wielded by the presidency, which is a flagrant violation of the constitution. The second point is that the administration was not built on the basis of specific and clear goals and, therefore, it is imperative to re-build it on developmental foundations. The more painful thing is the absence of employment criteria. Are they based on expertise, efficiency, good conduct or rather family, region or party affiliation? We find that at present archaic standards govern the process. The criteria are not based on experience or qualifications. The third point is that the standards governing the institutions are rather temperamental, not those of codified laws and regulations. A clear example of this assumption can be detected at Sana’a University, the highest educational institution in Yemen. Administration is a powerful instrument in driving progress, so without an efficient and capable administration there can be little development. The ineffectiveness of administration is the product of the ruling elite’s lack of a progressive vision towards administration. The ruling elite does not perceive the administration as a means of distributing benefits, production or accomplishments. Unless this harmful attitude is reformed there can never be a viable administration and consequently very little progress, security, stability, an independent judiciary or even a state in the true sense of the term. Consequently, foreign investors will never be attracted by a country where the ruling regime is in such a state.
We are now approaching a real crisis, so it is imperative for the ruling elite to radically reform its existing policies and attitudes. The ruling elite has become extremely feverish as a result of discovering that new political forces are capable of success in local elections. This has also illustrated the emergence of new political forces in Yemeni society, many of which thrive on the margins of democracy.
It is usual for totalitarian and regressive regimes of developing countries to superficially adopt democracy as a shield to help improve their image. However, in the course of time they realize that democracy has gained rapid momentum, and has made a great impact, increased political awareness and steady economic growth.
Following local elections, the ruling regime discovered that numerous political forces had evolved which showed a willingness and ability to actively seek reform, especially the Yemeni Congregation for Reform and the Socialist party. For this reason the authoritiesare now faced with three options:
1- to abolish democracy for good,
2- to enhance the powers of security and military establishments and try to weaken the institutions of civilian society, as well as try to marginalize other growing political forces through various means,
3- to embark on building a really competitive party system which could be similar (for example) to the Indian Congress, helping establish and augment political competition.
Regrettably, the ruling elite in Yemen has chosen the second option, dealing a blow to and weakening the diversity of political forces and enhancing the powers of security institutions.
The many parades of the Special Forces we have witnessed is but one of the indications that ideas of national building are not founded on achieving justice and security but, rather, are oriented towards suppression by the use of force. Force definitely does not create security, and military force may ultimately lead to rebellions against those who employ it.
We are approaching a real crisis, that is, a conflict between the ruling elite and other political forces. The conflict will be a bitter one aimed at taming democracy and getting ready for the coming elections namely:
-parliamentary elections
-local councils elections
-presidential elections.
All these are very significant channels which the authorities are not venturing to open up before adequate preparation either by dealing a blow to the political forces that are capable of action or setting up certain controls on it to move and act.
Regarding the unity of the north and the south, the issue is not only a matter of geographical unity or removal of borderlines. Regretfully, the war of 1994 has shifted border markings from the borders to the society, that is it has created barriers among the people. To date the authority could not understand that it should exert all efforts for formulating general framework of the local government which grants people the right to administer their affairs. People are usually concerned with their own daily matters.
Unfortunately, all forces on the Yemeni arena are part of the general state of people’s backwardness. Their function is not what it should be. They do not work to re-organize themselves to achieve the example of the state they endeavor to have; to be democratic, to be institutional allowing internal freedom and to have direct contact and communication with the masses.
Reform in Yemen could be realized through one of two options:
– either there is a ruling elite possessing a plan for building a modern state, or
-by a people’s will constituting an element of pressure on the political will. But unfortunately we lack both factors. The important thing for political parties and the civil society institutions should be to reflect the people’s will, a task they have not fulfilled yet.
Mohammed Binsallam from Yemen Times conducted an interview with Dr Al-Mutawakil, on this vital issue.
Q: How do you foresee the future in the light of the general deterioration in economy, finance, health and political situation?
A: The future is still full of grave crises. We are a poor community and things have worsened to an extent that we are suffering from a drastic shortage in water. Added to that, misuse of everything has reached an unbelievable extent. The authority should work for stopping the state of steady deterioration. However, in the long-run I am rather optimistic because change is one of the rules and norms of the universe. The thing we fear most is dampening the economic situation which the Yemenis might not tolerate any longer than they have done so far. Even the military forces sent by the state to fight gangs and highwaymen are themselves hungry and ultimately the authority might collapse and I would not rule out a situation in future similar to that of Somalia.
I believe in development if we have a good economy. We need time to develop politically, which is the gate way for a comprehensive development. What annoys me in the first place is that man would not give us time and then there would be the disaster.
Q: In 60-year’s time population in Yemen may be more than 113 millions. How do you perceive the situation in Yemen then? What could be the shape of Yemen’s relations with its neighbors?
A: I have already written some articles explaining that any agreement with Saudi Arabia would only remain just geographical unless there is normal relations among all countries of the Peninsula and the Gulf region ensuring security and stability.
If Saudi Arabia is now suffering from the problem of 300 thousand Yemenis entering and leaving from certain areas, then in 60 years when the Yemeni population goes up to 113 million , Saudi Arabia would have to face the problem of 10 million Yemenis doing the same thing. Therefore unless our relations are normal and replace the geographic borders by boundaries of interests, as in the case in Europe, there may not be a state of stability. I am still of the opinion that the relations between Yemen and Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf states must take into account the common interests and security and economic issues instead of just agreements on geographical borders.
Q: Do you see a possibility of establishing relations with Israel?
A: Relationship with Israel is very difficult both for the rulers and the Shoura. The crisis involving us and Israel is the cause of Palestine. If the crisis of Palestine is not settled the crisis in our relations would continue to be there. Even our relations with the United States of America would remain bad because the Americans unjustly side with Israel. Israel is a Zionist entity which is of the view that the conflict between the Arab Islamic nations is one of existence.
The US tries to make Yemen and Jordan a bridge of understanding with Israel and a vehicle for carrying Israel to Syria or the Peninsula. But we wonder why these two countries in particular? The fact is that the people in the region would not reach an understanding with Israel unless Israel solves the issue with the Palestinians.
Q: Any final comment?
A: The Yemen Times substantially contributes in conveying many pertinent issues facing Yemen to the world public opinion. Yemen Times has to maintain its mission and probe deeper into those issues in a way that it can convey a clear image to others.