Mr. Najeeb Qahtan Al-Shaabi: ” In Spite of the Difficulties we Face, We Haven’t Taken any Decisions on Withdrawal” [Archives:1999/34/Interview]

August 23 1999

Yemen is to witness the first ever presidential elections in its modern history in the 23rd of September. The parliament has endorsed the nominations of two persons only. They are the current president, Mr. Ali Abdullah Saleh and Mr. Najeeb Qahtan Al-Shaabi. The last is running as an independent candidate and is the only competitor of president Saleh.
Mr. Najeeb, a father of 2 sons and 2 daughters and the son of the first president of the South of Yemen ( Qahtan Al-Shaabi), was born in Lahj in 1953. He finished his elementary, preparatory and secondary schooling in Aden and Cairo, Egypt. He graduated from the Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences, Cairo University in 1976. He obtained his MA. from the same college in 1983. In 1983 he enrolled in the same college for his Ph.D. with the thesis titled ” the Political Integration between the South and North of Yemen.”
His father was one of the leaders of the armed struggle against the British colonization of South Yemen. His father became the president of South Yemen in 1967 and resigned in 1969 due to a conflict with the Marxist wing in the National Front. He was put in prison and his death wad declared in 1981. Due to the bad treatment Najeeb and his brothers faced in the South, they left Aden and lived in Cairo since 1976. In 1981 Najeeb and his mother and brothers came and lived since then in Sanaa.
In 1990 Mr. Najeeb became a member of the first parliament after the Yemeni Unification. Then, he was appointed as a consultant of the president for the parliament elections affairs but he resigned for nominating himself in the elections of 1997. He is now a member of the parliament and a member of the oil and mineral wealth committee in the parliament. He has published a lot of political writings in different well-known Yemeni newspapers. To know more about his electoral campaign as well as the problems he is facing and his program for the presidential elections, Mohammed Bin Sallam of Yemen Times interviewed Mr. Najeeb Al-Shaabi and filed the following:
Q: How do you reply to allegation of the apposition that you are the shadow of the president?
A: This allegation was made the day following the nomination from parliament by the Opposition Coordination Council. They did so before even reading my political program. It was a pre-judgment decision that should not have been made by seasoned politicians.
Q: How do you see the statement made by the opposition Coordination Council that they obtain nomination for their candidate from the people directly?
A: I see that as a propaganda move which I doubt that they will go ahead with. In any case, I see that very little can be achieved from such a move as this process is not constitutional.
Q: We have never heard that one political party nominates two candidates for presidency of the state. What is your comment?
A: We, as well, never heard of such a thing in any election, parliamentary or presidential. Therefore, it is not true what some opposition parties allege that the president and I, are nominees of the same party. The president is a nominee of the PGC while I am an independent candidate. Besides, we have different programs.
Q: What are the differences between your program and that of the president?
A: There is a basic difference between the two programs as they stand on different points of political and economic spectrum. My program basically seeks a modern state, where law and order, social justice, democracy, local government, equal citizenship and strict abidance by the constitution are pillars.
My program particularly has strong views on free education, health-care umbrella and economic policy. In fact, in our views on social justice, we have gone beyond the program of the Opposition Coordination Council.
Q: Where is your popular base that has encouraged you to run for the presidency? And where do they concentrate?
A: We shall depend upon voters from all parts of Yemen. We are able to reach the people and convince them with our agenda. We shall depend on Yemenis who are not convinced that the current administration will affect improvement and I hope that I am able to affect such a change towards law and order, equality, and modernization of the states’ institutions.
Q: What are your plans on corruption? Are you willing to remove the corrupt collectively in one move?
A: Corruption is a major chronic problem facing our country. There are many official reports involving many officials, some in high offices. It needs application of the law, strictly and equally and setting a strong example from the beginning. Once this principle is established, I believe things would be easier to manage . It is also important to have aides who are honest, knowledgeable and of decent public opinion. This would enhance public trust and assistance to face and solve this serious disease. Also we should promote the principle of reward and punishment. We should also enact a law on ” where did you get this from?” to audit the wealth of officials. All these principles are expressed in my program
Q: What about local government?
A: Local government law is already in the parliament and we are strong advocates of strong local government with wide jurisdiction. It should be a big development in our political, economic and social life.
Q: Your withdrawal from the election process – as quoted by Al-Ayyam newspaper – is it an agenda plot to re-nominate the candidate of the opposition?
A: We have not taken any decisions on withdrawal – in spite of the difficulties we face for our campaign. For the second part of the question we are not a part of any plots to re-nominate the opposition nominee for this will never happen.
Q: What difficulties are you facing in your campaign – as you mentioned?
A: Basically they are of financing and mismanagement by Supreme Election Committee. Financing from treasury as stipulated by law is still not decided till now. The law states that the parliament presidium should propose the amount and parliament approves it. Parliament is still in vacation till the 1st of September. Time is very short for a complete campaign, and the amount suggested as we heard unofficially which is 25 million riyals, is hardly sufficient. The SEC has not approved to be taking the process seriously as we made clear last week in our statement published in the Yemen Times. There is also talk that the campaign time will be shortened to 14 days which does not give us sufficient time.
We feel that these difficulties seriously undermine the principle of equal opportunity as our competitor, the president, is already a well known personality.
Q: What are the means through which you will express your program and ideas?
A: Before the campaign period, we have depended mainly on newspapers and magazines. But during the campaign period we will seek to meet the people directly through public fairs in capitals of governorates, in addition to the media, both official and independent. The law stipulates that both candidates get equal opportunity and we hope that everyone abides by that. We should also use posters and pamphlets and such means throughout the country, through our offices in the various govern orates.
Q: How do you see the future of Yemen after the elections?
A: We see that these elections represent an important step towards deepening and establishing the democratic process. The upcoming president should also begin seriously to tackle the huge problems facing us today politically, economically and socially. Our security situation needs attention and public faith requires enhancing. The coming local and parliamentary elections should provide a turning point towards establishing effective constitutional institutions. There are basic necessities towards establishing a modern democratic state.