Government constitutional amendments enrage Parliament [Archives:2006/935/Front Page]

April 6 2006

By: Adel Al-Khawlani
SANA'A, April 5 ) Parliament refused on Wednesday to read the government's constitutional amendments before distributing them to MPs. According to MPs, the amendments grant the Shoura Council some parliamentary authorities and approve increasing Shoura Council members from 111 to 151, stating that members must be elected by local councils.

Dr. Rashad Al-Rassas, State Minister for Parliament and Shoura Council Affairs, began reading President Ali Abdullah Saleh's letter highlighting the amendments. But the majority of MPs interrupted him, as the letter violates parliamentary bylaws stipulating that any new constitutional amendment must be presented to the presidency and then discussed in Parliament before approval.

MP and Constitutional Committee member Abdurrazaq Al-Hijri said parliamentary bylaw Article No. 219 states: “The presidency must study and review any new amendment project for three days and then forward it to the Constitutional Committee for approval by a majority of MPs, which is more than 150. After two months, the project must be approved by three-fourths of MPs, except for articles necessitating public referendum, such as Article No. 69.”

Article No. 62 amendments include establishing another legislative chamber, in addition to the current legislative chamber represented by Parliament, Al-Hijri noted. The article's amendments grant the Shoura council legislative authority after increasing its membership to 151, the majority of whom are to be elected by local council members while the others are to be appointed by the president.

Al-Hijri continued, “The amendments are not good, since those who framed them for President Saleh cared for their personal interests at the expense of public ones.” He commented that the amendments constitute a democratic setback.

He expressed curiosity at granting the Shoura Council legislative authority. “This is one of Yemen's amendment scandals,” he said.

Dr. Aidarus Al-Naqeeb, head of the Yemeni Socialist Party parliamentary bloc, stated that reading any constitutional amendments without distributing them to MPs three days in advance is one of Parliament's random and confusing procedures.

“Parliament deserves such random amendments because it showed no reaction to financial and administrative corruption in many governmental bodies,” MP Abdulkarim Shaiban said. “The president was supposed to use his power and dissolve Parliament in lieu of presenting these amendments.

“We do not oppose establishing another legislative chamber in addition to Parliament if it is elected by citizens rather than by the executive authority. If these constitutional amendments are approved, democracy will be out of place in our country,” Shaiban commented.

Many MPs held Parliament's Executive Office accountable for not presenting the current budget or announcing the past year's financial accounts.

Parliamentary Financial Committee member Zakaria Al-Zakari affirmed that the current budget was not presented to his committee for discussion, considering this one of the violations committed in Parliament, coupled with its approval of the state general budget for fiscal year 2006.