IFES concerned about new election committee delay [Archives:2008/1170/Local News]

July 7 2008

Wojoud Hasan Mejalli
For The Yemen Times

SANA'A, July 5 ) The International Foundation for Electoral Systems, or IFES, has revealed its concerns about delaying the formation of a new election committee to observe the 2009 parliamentary elections.

“I have to say that we're really concerned about the delay in appointing a new committee. Time is running out and the parties must come to a solution and appoint committee members as soon as possible. There's no doubt that the longer it takes to appoint them, the more difficult it will be for them to do their job,” observes Peter Williams, IFES country director for Yemen.

Yemeni opposition parties have been boycotting Parliament sessions since June 9 in protest against amending a law regarding the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum. The parties have even threatened not to run in next year's elections.

Williams stated his concerns at a seminar last Saturday entitled, “Public Funding of Politics in Transitional Democracies in the 21st century.”

“This workshop's main objective is to generate dialogue in Yemen about the issue of political funding in the 21st century. Yemen already has some very good legislation and from our own discussions with the minister and the committee, as well as what we've seen, they're looking to implement such legislation; however, I must provide some help, guidance and advice,” Williams said, noting that many political parties are concerned about the quality of the voter registry.

“If they want us to be able to check it – survey the register and check its accuracy – then they need to appoint new committee members,” he said, further suggesting the Yemeni Parliament appoint a female committee member.

As Williams pointed out, “The Yemeni Constitution guarantees opportunities for both men and women. It's important for women to play a role in senior government positions. For example, we know there was a female committee member before and we feel it's time to see a woman there again.”

Gathering various NGOs and politicians, who presented numerous working papers, the seminar's topics included applying Yemeni legislation, a regional perspective, a Yemeni perspective and public subsidies in Australian politics, as well as an international perspective as the way forward for Yemen.

“There are many concerns about the various types of political financing, as well as foreign interests, terrorist interests and business interests, so those are the sort of issues we want to generate discussions about and help Yemen's political system find a way to control such interests. Also, the size and number of elections surely will require more financial support, especially given the current inflation in food prices,” Williams noted, referring to his group's Yemen project in this regard.

“Our assistance with the next election mainly involves working with the SCER to enable them to enhance their enforcement capabilities, as well as, obviously, the issue of political financing with in the SCER. We'll also assist the media in initializing the good work they did in providing an equal opportunity during the last election,” he added.

International political analyst Marcin Walecki says, “It's misleading to assume that there's one ideal model to control political financing and different regulatory frameworks. Challenges such as systematic vote-buying, electoral fraud and corruption, which are exacerbated by extreme poverty, old-fashioned patronage politics and abuse of state resources can be more problematic than any aspect of the new media-heavy mass market approach.”

He continues, “For sure, there's vote-buying in Yemen. For example, it's estimated that during the 2003 elections, the General People's Congress party set aside YR 40 to 60 billion ($217-325 million) to buy votes, while the Islah party earmarked some YR 10 billion ($54 million), according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, which is helping to build democracy in Yemen.”

Walecki suggests four steps for Yemen's imminent future, the first of which – considering that Yemen has an impressive legal framework – stresses implementation and enforcement.

The second step involves enhancing such enforcement by establishing closer cooperation among existing monitoring bodies. Third is introducing timely and comprehensive disclosure and lastly, increasing state subsidies and introducing free broadcasting for parliamentary elections, Walecki concluded.