Government and Opposition Debates Over The Local Authority Law Going On [Archives:2000/06/Law & Diplomacy]

February 7 2000

In the press conference of the Ministers of Justice, Local Administration, and Legal Affairs, held on Jan.30, the ministers discussed the advantages of the local authority law and its importance in enlarging the public participation. The press conference was a reaction to the opposition’s stance to the law. The endorsement of the law agitated the anger of a good number of people. Some of the politicians and opinion-makers expressed their resentment with the law openly pointing out theat endorsing the law is a real setback for our democratic process. They also viewed the current law violates the constitution which guarantees local governance enjoying a lot of privileges. All the social and political, economic figures in Yemen believe that the current law did not add anything to our democracy. Rather, it embodies total centralization, giving no room for the public participation. The law, according to these people, doesn’t voice only the interests of the crooked and corrupt officials at the power center who represent a stumbling block of any efforts aiming at reform at different levels. In fact, some of the parliamentarians will go to the Constitutional Court unless President Saleh agrees to send the draft law to the parliament to discuss it and endorse a law that voice the interest of the public. Yemen Times continues to present the opinion of the government and the opposition about the law.
Sadiq Ameen Abu Rass
Minister of the Local Administration
This law, ratified by the Parliament, was not just a mere whim. It was a result of long stages that began after the declaration of the reunification in 1990. More than ten drafts preceded it. This project relied basically on our previous experiences and on the experiments of the National Cooperation Authority for developing local councils’ projects, the People Local Council and experiments in other countries. In brief this law is combination between our ideas, thoughts, experiments, ambitions and the reality. We lived in a period where two authorities coexisted: the Cooperation Authority and the Local Councils for Co-operational Development. This fact has created dualism in the Central Authority and Local Councils at governorates and districts levels. Therefore, the project that was dependent on Local Councils, Cooperation Authorities and People Local Councils, at the same time, dependent on the Central Authority. However, with the release of this new law, districts will be divided into four units depending on the population: (<35 000), (35 000 - 75 000), (75 000 - 150 000) and (>150 000). The Local Councils’ members would be elected directly by citizens by free elections. Each district, depending on its population, would be divided into electoral constituencies equal in number to that of its councils. This law has also stated that the direct elections of Local Council’s members and District Representatives shall coincide with election of the Local Council Representatives in the district and the District Representatives in the governorate. According to the law, an Administrative Authority for the Local Council will be established. This elected Administrative Authority includes the Chairman of the Local Council, General Secretary and 4 or 5 elected members from the Local Council. On the district level, the Local Council can depose the governor. In this case the Local Council will start the procedures of electing a new governor. According to the law, each governor would hold his position for 4 years. After the end of this period he might be re-elected only once and this decision would be dependent on public’s wish.
There were many additions to the law of Local Authority such as the budget. If Local councils do not have financial resources, then they practically do not exist. The law has divided the financial resources into 3 categories. First, the local resources that are collected within the district and those shall go to the Local Authority. Second, the public resources that are gained at the governorate level and those would be distributed with specific ratios among all governorates and Governorate Councils. Lastly are the central resources and those shall be distributed to all governorates and districts in the Republic based on population density and their needs.
The Central Authority bodies will turn into control, planning and execution cadres looking for resources for the Local Authorities bodies. However huge projects like roads, big hospitals and factories would be implemented by the Central Authority. This was in brief the Local Authority Law. Finally, I would like to assure that this law was a 100% Yemeni offspring. We did not use foreign specialists but we did learn from foreign experiments and implemented all that would suit our country.
Ismail Al-Wazeer
Minister of Justice
The Local Authority law is extremely necessary to make up for a big shortage that our country suffers from. The passing of this law was delayed several times and some of its articles were suspended, like the one which controls the Local Administration. It is really good to see people are concerned about the future of this law. They all hope that this law would allow Councils to have better authorities and more resources. However, we shall not allow trivial matters make us digress from the main road like how the administrative units’ chiefs (governor & director) would be chosen. It would be as if we are discussing who came first the egg or the hen. The country is in dire need of a local administration and a main structure where national efforts join forces to find a real and effective authority. This latter shall be capable of administrating development, services and provide good for all people. Therefore, we shall not run after the marginal matters and concentrate on the authorities and specializations that this law has rendered to Local Councils. Now have bigger authorities and more control of its resources that was their main concern. In the past, Local Councils were able to run elections and start their duties but there was a point where they would always stop. They found that the authority was always in the hands of the Ministry in charge.
For example, in health’s field credits were allocated for the Ministry of Health and those of education for the Ministry of Education. However, under this new law, credits will be allocated for districts and they would have there own budgets. There would be a general budget for the government, a budget for governorates and one for administrative units. This means that there would be allocations for certain areas and districts where the ministry cannot intervene in preparing the general plan. Every district would have specific allocations for its development and the improvement of its services. This law has also treated the duality of authority where the administrative units were separate from the local council. This was more like having two governments sharing projects between themselves, therefore, resulting repetition of some projects and conflicts in others. This had resulted a great deal of insufficient use of human energy and resources.
I would like to say that this law has met many needed things and I am not saying that because of the position I hold in the government. This concerns us also as much as it concerns citizens who undoubtedly have been following the development of the draft laws. Without a law controlling the Local Administration system it has become necessary to issue this law that includes many detailed policies.
Therefore, I say that we shall all look deeply at this law because it is for our own sake and interest. We shall all realize that building something now is better than standing idle of concentrating on secondary matters.
Mr. Abdullah Ghanim
Minister of Legal Affairs
I would like to affirm that the Local Authority Law is revolution that will bring about the real administrative reform. We shall now say that administrative reform is not achieved by means of changing regulations and rules, administrative modes or replacing employees while the main administrative structure remains the same. In order to achieve the real administrative reform we must rebuild the structure of General Administration of the government on local and central levels. Only in this way Central Authorities would be able to concentrate on their main tasks such as political matters, administrating the armed forces, foreign affairs of the judiciary and other general affairs that include supervision, control and auditing. However, these authorities shall not intervene on daily local administrative matters that concern the citizen’s relation and government agencies in districts and governorate. The local authorities, on the other hand, would be able to take care of suburban and urbanite development and to administrate daily residents affairs on governorates, districts and administrative units levels.
This law in its essence is not ordinary because it completes the links of the democratic march that the people have chosen. Democracy is not embodied by the act of people electing a representative every four years or electing a president every five years. The democratic system would only be complete when it is put side by side with civilian social organizations and human rights protection. In this manner we would be moving democratic centre of gravity into the heart of the building process of this apparatus. This implies that we would not be forming a superficial relation with citizens. On the contrary, we would transfer citizens’ will to the heart of the construction operation. By doing this, individual and collective efforts would collaborate in districts as well as in governorates together with the efforts of the government in one political frame where the people rule. This would be an implementation of the fourth article in the constitution that states that people are the owners of authority and they can exercise it directly through general elections and referendums or indirectly through legislative and executive authorities and local councils.
Our people have chosen the republican system that can only be achieved by means of genuine participation of people at all levels through elections. Elections embody the free will of people that is represented by the Parliament at the central level and local councils at administrative units and governorates levels. This law has a phased nature and it can be considered the law number 2 in significance after the Constitution. Having a phased nature means that according to this law we shall reconsider several current laws so that they be in conformity with it and not vice versa. This law is a veritable administrative and social revolution both in Yemen and the Arab world. Most of Arab systems concentrate on centralizing authority and not many are able to emancipate from central authority to administrative and financial decentralization. What prevails our law is the democratic body that enabled us reach this level of thinking. The Parliament has courageously ratified this important political and legal step towards the building of the modern government in Yemen. Now, it is not just an ambition, it has become a reality. Therefore, we hope that we reach the highest levels in the implementation of this law through continuous public and official care.
There is no local authority without political and development participation. The case will be transferred from the parliament to the people,” said Dr. Ahmad Abdullah Abu Bakr, Head of the main Office of the Sons of Yemen League.
“The actual criteria of a fully-authorized local authority common in democratic regimes is based on the extent of political and development participation it realizes. Political participation is attained by direct election of all local government bodies of all levels. Functions and authorities must be determined accurately among these bodies on the one hand and with the central apparatuses on the other. There should be a mutual monitoring between the centre and the local authorities governed by the law, in addition to voters’ monitoring over officials of those authorities. As for the development participation it is performed by giving opportunity to the local authorities and the people to take part in the development process and grant those authorities independent financial resources to be used according to what they see it proper. If nothing of these criteria was not realized, the local authority will be nothing more than an aspect of authorization not decentralization.
As a National Committee, set up by the League’s party conference on ‘local authority,’ has prepared a national draft supported by all our country’s national forces. Qualified and well-known political, legal and administrative figures have taken part in drafting it. The draft was then submitted to the government officials and was discussed by the Consultative Council’s Symposium. It was also circulated among the parliament members and was received with wide-range popular support in all the places the Committee had visited.
We were expecting that the government draft would meet the country’s needs and achieve the people’s aspirations for a fully- powered local authority that would realize stability and comprehensive balanced development, ending at the same time marginalization suffered by many people segments and districts of the country. We have been fully aware that the ruling party bloc in the parliament is capable of approving the draft it wants. Nevertheless we have attached big hope to the wisdom of the political leadership that is still enough span of time to deal with this national and constitutional right, taking into consideration the national interest.
The National Committee will continue its work, even if the law is finally passed, and it will depend in its work on civilized mechanism that copes with the present situation. The case will then be taken from the parliament to the people,” Dr. Ahmad Abdullah Abu Bakr added.
Sons of Yemen League’s Statement
“In its meeting, in which it discussed the local authority law, recently passed by the parliament despite the people’s disappointment and its violation of the constitution, the National Committee highlighted the real constituents of a real local authority. It noticed that the passed law has ignored many basic elements that are recognized by democratic systems, such as the direct election of members of local authority. The local authority is away from any kind of legal or people’s control which in the law is substituted by the control of the Executive Authority, beginning from the governor to the president. In addition, it is not financially and administratively independent. With this regard the committee will make a thorough legal and administrative study on these objective bases later on.
During the discussion the committee listened to a number of opinions and interpretations suggested to find a solution to the present crisis and here are some of them:
1) It has been decided to call for the President to use his constitutional authorities to bring the law back to the parliament.
2)Preparations are to be made to submit a challenge to the constitutional department at the Supreme Courting against the non- constitutionality of the law.
3)Preparations are under way for holding certain public peaceful and democratic activities such as: strikes, festivals, conducting campaigns to collect people’s signatures asking for reconsidering the law.
The committee will carry through meetings and contacts with all national forces in order to join hands in this regard.