JMP: last attempt or bridge to a better future [Archives:2006/993/Front Page]

October 26 2006
Tareq Al-Shami, Mohamed Al-Dhahiri, Mohamed Qahtan
Tareq Al-Shami, Mohamed Al-Dhahiri, Mohamed Qahtan
Distribution of space between the most two prominent candidates.
Distribution of space between the most two prominent candidates.
Khalil Al-Khaubari
An analysis of the Joint Meeting Parties experience in the past few months. One of the main achievements acknowledged for the JMP is defying the ideological differences among the member parties in order to achieve a unified stance. While political analysts think Yemen is still not ready for a peaceful transition of power.

An analysis of the Joint Meeting Parties experience in the past few months. One of the main achievements acknowledged for the JMP is defying the ideological differences among the member parties in order to achieve a unified stance. While political analysts think Yemen is still not ready for a peaceful transition of power.

In 1996, while Yemen was still recovering from the political conflicts of the political crises in 1994, there were many attempts to create a political coalition among the parties to ensure free and fair election in 1997. This trend developed and main opposition parties like Islah party, Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), Nasserite Unionist Popular Organization (NUPO), Popular Forces Union (PFU) and Al-Haq Party, managed to reach an agreement on a political reform project, which represented the fundamentals for these parties despite each party having its own agenda. These political parties formed the first seed of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP).

Dr. Mohamed Al-Dhahiri, Head of Political Sciences Department at Sana'a University, says following the JMP agreement on the political reform project the opposition has moved from political weakness in the nineties, to competitive political power during the recent elections.

September 20th and the real challenge

The most recent elections in Yemen represented the most important and challenging experience in the JMP's political history. For the first time in Yemen's modern history there was a real and serious competition for the country's highest political post, as vividly witnessed among the Yemeni people all around the country.

JMP and Ideological differences

In recent years, ideologies came together under one unified goal against the strongest, single, ruling party, the General People Congress (GPC). However, as repeatedly reported by many media during the electoral campaigns, this experience, even if it attained success in the course of the democratic process, it faced a big challenge. The challenge was to form a solid coordination between the members of these parties similar to that of their leaders. Commenting on the ( JMP) experience, Tareq Al-Shami, Head of Media Department in GPC said,

“These parties agreed on issues that serve the society and this is a good experience on its own.”

However, he reiterated by casting his doubts on the seriousness and credibility of the JMP to tackle national issues.

“JMP strives to achieve their partisan goals. These parties managed to overcome all the ideological differences at the level of leaderships, but they failed to coordinate at the level of members in local constituencies,” he explains. “This negatively influenced the performance of these parties in local council elections.”

According to Al-Dhahiri, JMP went through a stage of exclusion created a unifying factor for these parties despite their different ideologies. He called on the JMP, which in his opinion, achieved great success and endorsed the legitimacy of political competition, to evaluate their experience. He advised these parties to overcome all the ideological differences, which may be a factor for their failure in the long term.

Mohamed Qahtan, JMP Official Spokesman, commented on the variety in the JMP's ideologies: “The talk about ideologies is merely a talk about the Cold War. When we thought about the future of Yemen and the country's current situation, we understood we have to leave behind the ideologies of the Cold War in order to make a better future for the country.

“When we apply common sense, we will realise that despite our differences, we are all Yemenis, Arabs and Muslims, and these are the most important ties,” Qahtan added. “The joint campaigning led by JMP in favor of its presidential candidate, Faisal Bin Shamalan, helped create a new spirit and a new language in the sense of JMP's interaction with its member parties or with people. And this will form the foundation for the JMP in the future”

The Yemeni political environment

The famous political Yemeni poet Abdullah Al-Baradoni once said:

“Political parties are not aliens from the skies. They are a product of this earth. They are the product of a dominant culture and social environment”.

Right now is probably a moment to question ourselves about the level of cultural and political awareness the Yemeni people have attained. And whether Yemen is ready to accept and understand the peaceful transfer of power today. Consequently, one questions the role of the ruling party and opposition to enhance the peaceful transfer of power.

Al-Dhahiri believes the most important goal of any political party is to reach power and not to remain as opposition.

“From a historic viewpoint, as Yemenis, we are not qualified enough to accept that any political party can reach power with strong political legitimacy. Via measuring public opinion, there are multiple factors that govern behaviour of the voter and change his/her attitude,” he explained.

On his part, Qahtan holds the view that the elections have pushed the country toward a better future in this respect and the JMP has understood the meaning and benefit of the peaceful struggle.

In light of these differing viewpoints, it is possible for the peaceful transfer of power to be experienced in the long term if reforms are gradually implemented during the upcoming period. It will pave the way toward a new political era. These reforms may be concerned with deepening the institutional concept at the government and opposition levels. Also, they are expected to ensure fair and free elections and boost the culture of political tolerance among members of the society.

JMP between sharp political address and reactions of the public

The electoral campaigns of presidential candidates were characterized by serious competition, sharp addresses and exchange of accusations, which Yemenis nationwide hadn't seen before. At this point, a question arises about whether the sharp political address influenced behaviour of voters when they cast their ballots.

There is no remarkable difference between programs of the GPC and JMP candidates. It is the sharp political address that influenced the behaviour of the voter and this influence is limited to educated people who live in urban areas and main cities. However, the simple citizen, who lives in a rural area, doesn't pay attention to the political address like he/she does to living standards, according to Al-Dhahiri.

Al-Shami, pointed out the political address, particularly during electoral campaigns of JMP candidate, focused on exaggeration and cast doubt on achievements the country has witnessed, left negative influence on voters who believed such an address is unreal and inauthentic.

Muneer Al-Omari, one of the Yemeni citizens reflecting on the ballots in the elections, mentioned that sourness of the political address generated fear among voters as well as a desire to maintain the current situation even if they want improvements.

Whereas, Qahtan believes the acute political address is one of the most important achievements attained by JMP because these parties proved the presidential post belongs to the people and the post is subject to competition. The sharp political address put a stop to the impermissible and it's a victory for democracy.

JMP and Media

Since many political parties run their own newspapers a lot of campaigning took place in the media. However, independent media also contributed to the promotion of the presidential competition. A report released by European Union Election Observation Mission on the role of media in these elections, showed the JMP's candidate received on average around 22% in media coverage, while 67% was dedicated to the GPC candidate. This report studied the distribution of media space, and tone of coverage between the most two prominent presidential candidates as manipulated by independent newspapers.

The same report indicated the trends of approaching the presidential candidates in terms of positive, neutral or negative coverage. Surprisingly, Saleh received more negative media coverage than Bin Shamlan by 5 percent.

Nevertheless, the agreement in Yemen's political sphere is that although the JMP failed to dominate the scene, it least it has passed the test of survival. “People were betting on our failure as a collation. They thought our ideological differences would break us down. But they were wrong and we are still a strong political coalition. And we are sure that in the coming elections we will play a stronger role.” Concluded Qahtan.