Has the ruler understood the lesson? [Archives:2008/1126/Opinion]

February 4 2008

Mohammed Al-Yousefi
We have less than fourteenth months ahead of the country's fourth parliamentary elections, but less than one year until the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER) announces the voter registration committees, plus other arrangements for the elections according to the law. Such a short distance of time places the new SCER, which has not yet been formed, in a critical situation, mainly as multiple, big and urgent tasks are awaiting it.

The deadline for accomplishing the scheduled duties is drawing nearer and nearer while the ruling party evasively avoids conducting real reforms for the election system. Having a good electoral system is the basis for carrying out real reforms to ensure that Yemeni people practice their electoral rights in fair, free and transparent elections that can help repair people's trust in the democratic process as a whole.

In Yemen, the democratic process is believed to have lost its content because the ruler and its ruling party play with its various steps, preceding from the use of state's capacities such as public money, senior government posts, the official media and the army, to its dominance over SCER and utilizing it to their advantage. Frankly speaking, the ruling party exploits the higher election authority, supposed to be neutral and independent, in its favor whenever the country has an election, and therefore manipulates the votes to produce the same result and same winner every time.

Oddly, the General People Congress (GPC), indicated above as the ruling party, still is refusing to respond to opposition's demands for reforming the election system, regarded as one of the top priority requirements for the coming time period. Instead, GPC is currently attempting to amend the Constitution according to a special agenda that serves certain personal and partisan interests. Such a behavior is believed to have nothing to do with demands of the nation and the encountered challenges that necessarily requires a national compromise and real partnership to overcome the standing risks nationwide.

As far as I am concerned, the Joint Meeting Parties' project [vision], concerning amending the Election Law, which was submitted for discussion and distribution to the public opinion, necessitates that all the national forces should be serious about the validity and usability of this law, as well as the opposition's suggestion for amending it. The JMP project for reforming the electoral process is the product of a real experience so far gained by the opposition coalition throughout the various election rounds until the moment.

The project implies that it has had close relation with the electoral experience and diagnosed its weaknesses and limitations, which the GPC, I think, knows well, but its will for reforming them is still intentionally absented due to selfish desires.

The JMP vision of reforming electoral violations and ensuring fair and free elections is not a new project for the ruler, who once committed himself to addressing the noticeable violations and limitations by signing and approving recommendations contained in the European Union Election Observation Mission's report on Yemen's presidential and local council elections of September 2006.

Additionally, the project and its vision for reforming the Election Law today represents a consensus, agreed by the majority of political parties and civil community organizations, plus the international organizations that monitored Yemen's most recent vote.

The matter makes the ruling party find itself in a direct confrontation with a public desire for implementing reforms in the country, taking into consideration that a transparent and sound election system is key to carrying out the comprehensive reform program. Nevertheless, the ruling party's talk about dialogue, partnership and other relevant subjects remains merely for media consumption unless the party shows a real desire for enhancing the democratic process and peaceful transfer of power via a faire and transparent electoral mechanism.

The ruler has to understand he doesn't have much time to continue cheating democracy and partnership, and making decisions alone without involving other political partners, mainly as the country is experiencing inflaming turmoil and congestions nationwide because of the government's poor policies. The Yemeni people are holding the government accountable for the deteriorating situations in the different parts of their country.

It is time for the ruler to respond to demands of his people and start undertaking real reforms. Also, he has to understand that his people have chosen the peaceful struggle as a means for having their demands met.

Source: Al-Sahwa Weekly.