NDI criticizes Yemen’s progress in democratic issues [Archives:2003/678/Front Page]

October 20 2003

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
The American National Democratic Institute (NDI) is going to release a follow-up report on the last April Parliamentary election in Yemen within a week or two, an NDI official told Yemen Times, adding that the report will have many recommendations, including election law amendments, for improving the democratic performance which has been mixed or neutral in the last few years.
Mr. Leslie Campell, NDI Director for Middle East and North Africa said that the NDI has been running consultations and dialogues with political parties, getting their opinions on the post-election happenings. “We do not want to put all emphasis on the election day; we focus on the pre-election campaigns and post election periods. We will issue a report that is going to have several pages of recommendations for changes,” Mr. Campell said. He pointed out that the NDI has a “favorable opinion from government officials that they will look at these recommendations very seriously.” He said that the progress of Yemen in democratic issues in the last few years has been mixed. “I think that Yemen’s progress on democratic issues in the last few years have been mixed and I think that the April election was mixed as well. There are good and bad things about it,” he observed. One of the good things about this election, according to Campell, was that the administration of the election had improved dramatically and the voter registration was much better. However, there were many negative points. “The negative thing was that the laws were not enforced very much. The complaints were not taken very seriously and the violations on the election day were just allowed to happen. So, the effect of that was to take what could have been a very good event. It is very difficult to say this was a great election. It was not a great election,” he emphasized. “There have been good things going on in the democracy field, but there have been a lot of setbacks as well,” he added. He said that the election law was not just enforced as, for instance, in the election “there was campaign during election day and a lot of coalition of voters and the security and military forces were involved heavily which is negative.” The NDI believes that the election was not the worst of the elections it has seen but not nearly as good as Yemen could do. Yemen could do much better, according to Campell . He emphasized the backsliding of Yemen in terms of women political participation. “Yemen has also got a little backward in participation of women in politics. There is only one elected woman. There is a minister now but women are not appointed to important positions in the parties where six years ago there were more women involved,” he illustrated.
Mr. Campell said that the NDI was critical of the postponement of the parliamentary election and the increase of the parliamentary term to six years “which I think was a problem and still a problem.” The NDI is very critical of granting more power to the appointed Consultative Council. “We were very critical of the increase in power to the Consultative Council. We think an appointed body should not have more power. It should be elected if it is going to have more power,” he said. He believes that in the last few years democracy in Yemen has been neutral and that is, to him, unfortunate as people in Yemen want their country to continue to progress towards a more matured democracy. He said that when Yemen is compared to countries in the region in terms of democratization, it is not that should aspire to only what the neighbors are doing. “The comparison is just an educational tool for foreigners, trying to differentiate Yemen a little bit from its neighbors because Yemen does not always get a lot of attention,” he said. “I would argue that Yemen should, and I hope does, aspire to develop the democracy that falls in line with the established democracies of Western Europe and North Americans,” he added. However, he said that the NDI believes that democracy is not something that can be imposed and that it tries to work with Yemenis to provide some ideas and models that can improve this democratization drive in Yemen.
On the other hand, the Gulf Forum for the Democratic Political Action which started Saturday evening winded up yesterday. Around 45 persons from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait with some international participants from the US took part in the event which was organized by the NDI. Multiparty competition, political participation, mainly women participation in politics, open and free media and the involvement of civil society in political dialogue were debated in the event.