Local Elections and Constitutional Amendments: TOTAL CHAOS! [Archives:2001/07/Viewpoint]

February 12 2001

The exciting and informative discussion convention that we held in Yemen Times last week in coordination with the Future Studies Center and the Al-Bayan daily newspaper of the UAE, has revealed a lot of information to those in attendance and to me personally (see Report page).
What I discovered was that the procedures that took place regarding the elections and the amendments were astonishingly confusing and I wouldn’t be surprised if I was told that they are illegal. Here, I take the opportunity to reveal to you, our reader, the main objections and points of the debate that took place last week.
1)The constitutional amendments do have a link with the local elections. Despite the general belief that the two processes are not linked, the truth is that they are. One example is the election of the governor and the head of province. The current constitution (without amendments) openly states that elections are to take place for all posts regarding local authority. It doesn’t state that the governor or heads of provinces are exceptions. It stated that it is a violation to do otherwise. However, the local elections only include elections of council members and not the governor or the heads of provinces. The amendments here come to change the article so as to say that governors and heads of provinces should be ‘appointed’ not elected, which has a direct implication on the local elections. In other words, if the amendments are not approved then how can the governors or head of province be appointed while the constitution says otherwise?
2)Opportunities are not given to all parties equally. The TV and radio channels are openly endorsing the constitutional amendments, and consider voting “YES” to be a must and a national duty. To put it in another way, whoever votes “NO” is going against the national interest. This is also the justification for tearing down the posters that urge the public to say “NO” to the amendments. In this case, why hold the referendum anyway? What is its use? Why does the government instruct the public to say “YES” while it claims to hold a democratic referendum?
3)Where are the buildings, structures, and financial budgets for the councils? Did anyone realize that the councils would require well-defined budgets, equipped buildings and offices? Or will all of these issues be sorted out after the elections? I just cannot imagine the situation of these members after the elections.
4)Tens of candidates in every electoral center, how will the poor illiterate voters know whom to vote for? Won’t this result in a low turnout at the polls? Most of the population don’t have a clue about the elections due to the poor awareness campaign and time shortage. If I, an educated Yemeni, can barely understand the process of electing council members in governorates and provinces, how will a poor illiterate villager deal with this mess?
5)There is a lawsuit raised against the Supreme Elections Committee (SEC) for violations in preparing lists of candidates, etc. The lawsuit demands that the elections be cancelled as they are not well prepared, as well as that there are a tremendously high number of violations that affect the democratic voting process. The lawyers that filed the lawsuit also demand that all the preparatory procedures of the elections be withdrawn. Assuming for once that the judicial system was totally independent and based on the provided evidence ruled against the SEC, what will happen next? Where will the elected members go? How on earth will we deal with such a chaotic situation?
These were only a few questions I could not refrain from asking. It is my country as well as the PGC’s and YSP’s. It is our country and we need to make sure that things don’t turn into a crisis. However, it is clear that these elections and the referendum are among the most controversial issues witnessed in the republic.
All I could say is it will truly be a confusing and chaotic situation. I only pray that it will not lead to any sort of disorganization, catastrophe or political crisis. Amen.