Election violations by SCER raise concerns:Yemen Times gets excluded by Fida Nasralla [Archives:2003/632/Community]

April 21 2003

Observers, journalists, politicians, and some international organizations in Yemen have recently expressed grave concern about violations committed by the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER) in the last few weeks in the preparatory phase of the elections to take place on April 27.

Non-government media excluded
Among the violations that were reported was the exclusion of all non-governmental media organs including opposition and independent newspapers from following up the SCER activities and sessions. Only the official news agency Saba and governmental newspapers along with national TV and radio were allowed to cover those events. Observers and monitors say that this action by the SCER is in direct breach of the SCER's own commitment to the Yemeni public and international community to maintain transparency by allowing the press to report freely on the commission's activities and to enlighten the public of the developments in this regard.
“There should be nothing to hide! Why don't they open the doors and let journalists report the truth to the Yemeni people?” inquired Jalal Al-Sharaabi, Editor-in-Chief of Al-Usboo independent weekly.
“This is in direct violation of SCER's commitment to allow the press to freely report on the events and activities happening in this institution in this critical time. This is the time the press needs to know what is going on behind closed doors in the SCER, and if governmental press is allowed in, why don't they allow other journalists to report the truth?”

YT excluded by Fida Nasrallah
In another act, considered a breach of the SCER's commitment to involve the local press in the awareness campaign on elections, the SCER decided to exclude Yemen Times (YT) from the media awareness projects and from the whole campaign. Despite the efforts of YT to participate in any phase of the different elections campaigns, SCER refused to allow YT to have a role in any phase. This comes in contradiction with the objective of the fund allocated by several donor organizations, which stated that the aim was to raise awareness by allowing the maximum number of active newspapers to participate in the campaign. It is a question raised by YT, which is by far the most widely read English-language newspaper in Yemen and is among the country's largest circulating newspapers, and also among the most active newspapers in coverage of elections, human rights and democracy related issues.
YT was the only English-language Yemeni newspaper that was excluded from participating in the campaign. When contacting the SCER, the commission members expressed the need and necessity to have a role of YT in the campaign. However the SCER failed to deliver its promise to YT insisting not to allow it to participate in the campaign in any way. The SCER said that the committee that rejected Yemen Times was headed by Dr. Fida Nasrallah, who is one of the members of the committee set up by the donors to decide on the participation of various newspapers in the campaign. Dr. Fida refused to get Yemen Times in any phase of the campaign, insisting that Yemen Times would not add substantially to the campaign in any way.

Problems with SCER main and sub committees
Shares of parties in monitoring the voting process in various governorates were altered by the SCER in a direct violation of its commitment to present the main and sub committees with training and equipment needed for the monitoring role. According to sources at some of those committees, the meeting that was supposed to be held last Wednesday was dominated by chaos and ambiguity concerning the share of the opposition parties in monitoring the elections in those committees. Some opposition party members claimed that this delay is an attempt to replace opposition monitors with monitors of the ruling party the GPC.

NAC protests Dr. Iryani's withdrawal from meeting
A number of the members of the National Alignment Committee (NAC) raised a letter of protest to President Saleh because of the withdrawal of Dr. Abdulkarim Al-Iryani, the General Secretary of the ruling party the GPC from the committee's meeting. Dr. Iryani withdrew because of Mohamed Masdoos of the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) replaced Dr. Seyf Sail, the Assistant General Secretary of the YSP in the NAC meeting. The president responded by promising to have Dr. Iryani attend the next meeting on the condition that Dr. M. Masdoos would not attend on behalf of Dr. Seyf Sail in the meeting.
NAC had discussed the national alignment project proposed by President Saleh. Various parties presented their suggestions for amendments to the project to be studied. The proposals were approved more than two weeks ago by all parties but opposition parties claim that the project's articles have already been breached by the ruling party.