Islah re-elects Sheikh Al-Ahmar as party chairman [Archives:2007/1028/Front Page]

February 26 2007

Yasser Al-Mayasi
SANA'A, Feb. 24 ) Islah Party, Yemen's largest Islamic opposition force, re-elected Sheikh Abdullah Bin Hussein Al-Ahmar as the party chairman, Mohamed Al-Yadoumi his deputy and Sulaiman Al-Ahdal chairman of the party's judicial authority. As many as 130 Islah Party leaders were elected members of the party's Shoura Council. This came during the first day of Islah's Fourth General Conference, which kicked off Saturday in Sana'a with the participation of more than 4,000 members representing the opposition party in various Yemeni governorates.

The conference was held amid heightened security, as the party feared a reoccurrence of what happened four years ago when Yemeni Socialist Party Assistant Secretary-General Jarallah Omar was assassinated during the party's Third General Conference.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Hussein Al-Ahmar, chairman of Islah's Higher Authority, didn't attend the conference due to his unstable health. Instead, Al-Ahmar sent a letter to conference participants stressing the necessity of their unity to bring about peaceful solutions to the nation's problems. He recommended party leaders work with all political forces, mainly the Joint Meeting Parties, to improve the country's situation as well as strengthen freedom and democracy in political life.

Amatassalam Ali Raja, head of the Islah Party's women's sector, acknowledged in her speech that Yemeni women have been engaged in political action. She urged party leaders to pay closer attention to women, children and youth, as this is key to social development.

“Women have two options: either develop or deteriorate,” Raja noted, “In Yemen, women account for more than 50 percent of the population, but they still suffer illiteracy and poverty.”

She called on Islah Party members to contribute to women's education and eradicate the high illiteracy rate among the nation's female population. Yemen's illiteracy rate stands at 29.8 percent for men and 62.1 percent for women.

Political leaders' participation

Leaders from other political parties also attended the Islah conference. General People's Congress Permanent Committee member Abdurrahman Al-Akwa'a spoke at the conference on the ruling party's behalf, affirming that Islah and the GPC stood in the same trench while defending national unity during the 1994 Civil War.

He added that the ruling party wants to establish contact, understand and dialogue with all opposition forces, particularly Islah. “The strong competition witnessed between the ruling party and the opposition in the most recent elections is normal. National parties should benefit from the event in order to develop the democratic experience,” he noted.

Yemeni Socialist Party Secretary-General Yassin Sa'eed Noman affirmed that the opposition must play a greater role and that the government should respect the opposition. He criticized the official media for repeatedly attacking the opposition when it presents its viewpoints on various national issues.

According to Noman, the government is responsible for the nation's growing issues, as well as criticism of the opposition without clear reasons. Yemen is in need of cooperation in order to develop and prosper.

Important conference

The general conference is considered Islah's most important event, as it involves numerous duties, such as electing the higher authority chairman and his deputy by a majority of attendees' votes or firing him with the approval of two-thirds of members. Additionally, the conference elects Shoura Council members and approves the party's platform and bylaws, as well as amends them.

During the conference, attendees evaluate the performance of the party's offices via a comprehensive report from the higher authority chairman. Participants also discuss and approve the party's plans and policies put into effect.

Islah's General Conference usually is held once every two years, but party members may hold an extraordinary meeting with the consent of the higher authority, two-thirds of the party's Shoura Council members or one-third of general conference members.

As Yemen's largest opposition force, Islah was established Sept. 13, 1991, four months after achieving national unity. It is viewed as a political movement more than a party with an Islamic orientation.

Over the past 16 years, Islah has engaged in numerous experiences and political actions, thus making democratic work more interactive. The party also established relations with the ruling party and other opposition parties.

According to Sana'a University political science professor Abdullah Al-Faqih, Islah established relations with the GPC and these relations went through various stages, one of which was a strategic partnership during 1990-1997. During that stage, Islah allied with tribal sheikhs and businessmen to confront socialism coming from South Yemen. Islah and the GPC also waged a war against the Yemeni Socialist Party in 1994.

Following the 1997 parliamentary elections, Islah's relations with the GPC deteriorated as the latter exploited all of the state's facilities and resources in its favor. Between 1997 and 2001, Islah was on full alert, particularly after it was removed from the formation of the Yemeni Cabinet.

After 2001, Islah began to compete with the ruling party, as demonstrated in the 2006 presidential and local elections. Along with other opposition parties, Islah established a bloc under the name of the Joint Meeting Parties. Over the past few years, the party has faced various challenges, such as accusations against Sheikh Abdulmajid Al-Zindani, the party's Shoura Council chairman, regarding funnelling money to terrorism.