Letters to the Editor [Archives:1999/31/Letters to the Editor]

August 2 1999

Dear Mr. Al-Saqqaf,
Let me first express to you my admiration of your insistence to follow suit in the footsteps of your father despite the enormous difficulties you face and will face in the future. As the future will prove the legacy of Dr. Al-Saqqaf will not be limited to Yemen Times, and the honorable family he left behind but will be manifested through the students he educated at Sana’a University and inculcated in them the values of resistance, honesty, and condemnation of corruption, selfishness, and monopoly of power. It is an irony that the fate served the oppressors by taken Dr. Al-Saqqaf in times his country, and his students needed him most. Had Dr. Al-Saqqaf been with us today, the course of events may have taken another direction. Dr. Al-Saqqaf would have been a perfect candidate for the presidency of Yemen. But we believe in God and we accept his judgement even if it is painful and harsh.
Second, let me comment on your view point ( Yemen Times, July 26). You said that parliament’s move to approve only two candidates for the presidency of Yemen has killed competition in Yemen’s upcoming election. Let me add to what you said the following point. Real competition in Yemen never existed. Even in the zenith of democracy in Yemen, which lasted between 1990-1994, real competition was never fully accomplished. And as the immediate events following 1993 elections demonstrated, legitimacy in Yemen is derived from the parallel of the gun, and not from the ballot box. If the parliament’s move killed something I think it was the illusion we have had in the last few years, the illusion that we live in a democratizing country. I have heard many specialists on Yemen in the West talking about the events of 1994 as the marking the end of democracy in the country, but I choose, like many other Yemenis, to live with the illusion that we were a democratizing country. From my point of few, the parliament’s denial of the candidacy of the opposition’s candidate and the candidacy of many others, and its approval of Saleh and his hand-picked opponent Mr. Al-Shaabi has pronounced the illusion of democracy in Yemen dead.
As the mainstream literature on democratization teaches us, we can never talk of democracy in a country where the most powerful decision makers are not chosen in fair and competitive elections. In the case of Yemen, we can not talk of democracy under a constitution drafted to preserve the interests of the victorious factions in the war and exclude large segments of society from taking part in politics. I think you would agree with me that the constitutional requirement that the candidate to the presidency must be approved by 10 percent of the members of parliament was tailored to fit some interests in society and exclude others. As you wrote, it is a disappointment to many Yemenis who wanted to live with the illusion of democracy. We all knew that the president was going to win any way for the obvious reasons that we all know. We also knew that even if there was a miracle and he was defeated, he would not quit. But all we dreamed of was a sense of competition and a sense of equal citizenship where Yemenis from all the regions could have the symbolic right of running for the presidency of their country.
Finally, a side note, Dr. Al-Saqqaf has passed away, but his enemies, the enemies of all Yemen are still alive. We know them no matter what masks they wear or language they speak. I am sure you and all students of Dr. Al-Saqqaf are aware of this fact. To face them, we need to line up and God will be with the righteous.
Abdullah Al-faqih
Political Science Department
Sanaa University
Better Not Be Graduates!
Before I commence my frank essay let me assure you that it does not mean the ruin of your hopes. My intention is not to depress you but to make you know and judge.
First of all, I would say our future is dark, sinister and gloomy. This does not mean that I am pessimistic. On the contrary, I am one of the most optimistic students of my batch. Since my early school days I have made up my mind to become an outstanding young man with perfect command over the English language. My high record in English at school has given me confidence and has pushed me forward to achieve my aims. I knew that dreaming did not make one a good English speaker. Therefore, I joined university and worked hard.
Gone are the days when a university student used to aspire for a bright and promising future. Nowadays university students have a hard time. Many difficulties and obstacles stand on their way and after a long voyage in the sea of knowledge, they come to be graduates. It is true that they come to an end to their first voyage when they are used to sailing together but this means the beginning of the second voyage when each has to sail alone on his own. Every one has to face the challenges of life and look for his future. In fact, every one is floating in the ocean of uncertainties, little knowing where the wind will take him.
Before graduating one conceives life as beautiful and wonderful. But after graduating he comes to face the terrible realities around him as he begins moving from one place to another in search of a job that satisfies his basic needs and requirements. After the long, fruitless search, he becomes frustrated and disappointed. For wherever he goes, he finds the same reply and stock phrases” No Vacancies”. Even meritorious students who should be given posts grow old before getting what they deserve. So I have every justification to say that our future is dark and gloomy.
Murad Saeed Saeed , Aden
Why Islah Nominated Saleh
I start my article by explaining why the Islah Party, which is the largest opposition party, nominated President Ali Abdullah Saleh for the upcoming presidential elections. That happened even before the ruling party, PGC held its sixth conference. This step of Islah had resulted in a violent and a theoretically illogical response by the PGC, because instead of showing eppreciation to Islah, the ruling party launched direct attacks at the decision.
In the view point column of Al-Thawra a phrase came out “such decisions are actually a way for bargaining and for gaining political profit.” This was a statement that confirms that the PGC has realized the true dimensions and actual benefit for Islah from such a decision. The PGC leaders realized that they are facing a situation that they had never thought of. A situation where they could not in any way get between the President and Islah.
On the other hand, the other opposition parties did not like the decision at all. They believe that this decision was made due to a secret deal between the two parties, or at least between the leadership and Islah.
However, the question one could ask is “Why did the Islah Party nominate President Saleh anyway?”
Analysts tried to answer this question in several ways:
The Islah Party understood the true situation, which had been studied by its leadership by so long. They believed that the President will definitely be re-elected and will stay in power for the next period no matter what due to many factors:
1- The agreement among the military forces (army, police, etc.) to vote for him
2- The way the president had convinced the western powers of his commitment to democracy and the new world order, resulting in gaining their trust
3- His determination to hold on to power
Hence, the Islah party realized that it would be better for the party to nominate the president for many reasons:
1- The close contact with the President away from the PGC -which does not wish such a thing to happen- will in fact help in strengthening the relations between Islah and the President, and facilitate its political career overall.
2- Keeping the President on their side will help in maintaining the accomplishments, which the party had gained through the years.
3- Not participating in the elections would rather avoid them going into paper work and extra financial burdens they cannot adequately handle at the moment.
4- Not helping in glorifying another unknown person from opposition who could have a negative impact on the party in the future. In other words, what it knows is better than what it doesn’t know.
Ra’id Al-Saqqaf, Sanaa