Elections disputes reach deadlock [Archives:2006/919/Front Page]

February 9 2006

By: Mustafa Rajeh
SANA'A, Feb. 8 – Disputes between the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) and the ruling General People's Congress (GPC) over the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER) turned to sharp controversy over the upcoming presidential election.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his Vice President met Tuesday with Secretary-Generals from Islah, the Yemeni Socialist and Nasserite parties.

Sources reported that the meeting was serious and frank but failed to settle disputes. Attendees agreed to resume meetings of opposition and ruling party representatives, which were halted some time earlier.

At Tuesday's meeting, the SCER approved its executive timetable for revising and modifying voter registers. However, issues related to forming committees to revise and modify voter registers remained unresolved, as the parties could not agree on the division of their shares on such committees.

When President Saleh insisted the opposition reach a consensus on forming voter registers modification committees, the opposition magnified the issue, claiming the SCER to be independent.

The opposition demanded several procedures be taken to ensure fair and free elections, including neutrality in public monies and government jobs, transparency and preventing use of state facilities.

“The ruling party has a different viewpoint on the dispute, alleging it erupted between the JMP and the SCER and presenting itself as a mediator, while the opposition believes the never-ending dispute is with the ruling party,” Yemeni Socialist Party political office member Ali Al-Sarari said in a statement.

The opposition claims the SCER suffered infringements upon its structure, faced obstacles to its work in the past and demonstrated total partiality in favoring the ruling party.

According to opposition leaders, the ruling party maintains that the division of main and subordinate committees to conduct the elections should be based on the number of parliamentary seats and the number of votes in the last election.

The opposition presented several suggestions, among them is sacking the current SCER and forming a new one by consensus. Another suggestion is that the present SCER remain in charge, but three JMP members be added to ensure balance.

Regarding forming main and subordinate committees, rules state that all committee members cannot be from the same party. This means the ruling party can have only one representative, the JMP another and the third must be approved by both sides.

In a statement last week by its Shoura Council, the Yemeni Islah Party indicated it may not take part in upcoming elections due to mass violations in complementary elections in the Raima constituency.