GPC’s vicious circle of sleaze [Archives:2006/963/Opinion]

July 13 2006

By: Ali Al-Sarari
Last July 17, President Saleh declared his intention not to run in the upcoming September elections. His declaration was a surprise, as his desire of retaining power was well-known. He even amended the constitution in 2001 for such reasons.

The president's reneging on his promise was not a shocker for those following Yemeni affairs, or for those who encouraged Saleh to make an “Arab Model” in case he willingly gives up the power.

The attempts to attract the real opposition, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), to the scheme that demands President Saleh to go back on his word not to stand as a candidate were unsuccessful. Further, the coerced crowds gathered by the ruling General People's Congress (GPC) were not to supply a convincing argument that justified Saleh's about-face. The predicament Saleh was put in led him to voice his anger against his party as expressed in his brief yet bitter addresses. During the opening sessions of GPC's regular conference last week, the president said “I will not be an umbrella for a corrupt party.”

Criticizing the ruling party's corruption has become a suitable means for Saleh to remove himself from his dilemma. This could mean that his announcement not to nominate himself for presidency was a protest against the corruption of his party; and his change of mind was not a response to GPC's nomination resolution, but only to the calls of the people to run again for the presidency.

It is unfortunate for President Saleh and his party that time is too limited for the party to submit his nomination papers for the presidential elections. In fact, there is not enough time for the GPC to forget what President Saleh said about their corruption. It is natural that voters will ask a question like “If President Saleh is serious about combating corruption, then why does he accept to be nominated by a corrupt party?”

Sacrificing the reputation of a party, thought by the president to be smaller than the Yemeni people, is an easy task. It is not the first time for him to simply give up on his party. It so happened that President Saleh visited camps and attended the meetings of security and military officials where he planned to incite the members of these institutions against the opposition, indirectly dispensing with the role of the GPC.

Posters of President Saleh in the streets include statements that condemn corruption, indicating stealthily that the war against corruption will take place within the ranks of the ruling party. Thus, President Saleh will announce his new victories over corrupt leaders. The president's credibility will be assessed by holding high-ranking officials accountable for their misdeeds.

Members of the GPC have not acted to defend their reputation, not out of love for President Saleh, but for fear that potential conflict might expose their positions of power. Their strategy is to accept insults and defamations while building their wealth and power, betting on time to make them disregard their loss of their standing.

It seems that there is a deal between President Saleh and the opposition, aiming to pressure the GPC under a pincer movement with the top GPC leadership on one flank and the broad coalition of the JMP on the other. Yet it is necessary to search for the reasons that made the GPC a corrupt party, deprecated by its leader and criticized widely by the opposition. In other words, what is the source of corruption that runs through the body of the ruling party?

JMP needs to defend itself against accusations of its opportunism expected to be directed against it as the JMP differentiates between the president and his party. According to the JMP's political, social, and national reform project, corruption in Yemen is not caused by a moral defect within GPC's members. Rather corruption stems from the nature of Yemen's political system presided over by President Saleh. GPC's members were not made corrupt by instinct or by how they were raised, but by their work for the existing system and from their role in maintaining it.

The majority of GPC members, formerly belonged to opposition parties, were not corrupt. They only become corrupt when they joined the service of the ruling party, which has the chief aim of preserving power. For the sake of preserving power, the ruling party abolished all other national aims, which could be the object of partnership between the ruler and the ruled.

GPC opens its doors to all those who are ready to discard their convictions in return for obtaining personal gain in an illegitimate manner. The ruling party has become ensnarled in a web of sleaze as a result. The president does not care about his party's reputation. Yet, he is the one who pays for it here lays the core of corruption.

Ali Al-Sarari is a Yemeni Journalist and a well-known politician. He is the head of the information department at the Yemeni Socialist Party.