Elections & Corrupting The Electorates [Archives:2001/07/Law & Diplomacy]

February 12 2001

Imad Al-Saqqaf
Taiz Bureau Chief
Yemen Times
Only one week remains before Yemenis go to the polls to choose members of the much-debated local councils. Yemenis have already experienced two parliamentary elections in 1993 and 1997 and the presidential elections in 1999, in which the PGC triumphed over all it’s political rivals. Many people felt doubtful about the seriousness and honesty of these elections, attributing the success of the PGC to the electorates’ lack of awareness which in turn made them easy to corrupt.
The result of this lack of awareness is clearly seen in the present parliament. Most MPs can only read and write while only a few hold university degrees. For this reason, most legislations outlined have failed and hence, there is no need to extend the parliamentary period to 6 years instead of 4.
The government claims that this is a way to make cut-backs in it’s expenditure but in fact, it is a means to play havoc with the democratic rights people enjoy, while the present parliament is unable to cope with new changes or produce legislations which agree with people’s situations.
More than 50% of Yemenis are illiterate, and these people hardly know their rights. When elections come they vote to please a well-known social or tribal figure disregarding their qualifications. Many qualified MPs failed in the 1997 elections and in return, Sheikhs, traders, etc. were elected.
Lack of awareness will also undermine the seriousness of local council elections and signs of this have already appeared. The PGC has started launching campaigns and seminars for its candidates most of which are held at the government universities.
It is a pity that public property, government universities and the official media are used to spread the thoughts of the ruling party and its followers, while other candidates have no more than a few black and white posters.
For free and credible elections, neutrality of public property, governmental institutions and the media must be achieved.