On the brink of a US war against IraqPostponement of elections resisted [Archives:2003/627/Front Page]

March 17 2003

By Mohammed Bin Sallam
& Hassan al-Zaedi

Officials and members of parliament have revealed their fears of possible violence that could take place during the upcoming elections scheduled for the end of April 2003 amid regional tensions caused by the possible US war against Iraq. But the government has emphasized many times that there is currently no plan to cancel or postpone elections for any foreseen reason.
The leadership is clearly keen to make this year's elections another success that would add up points to its overall performance in establishing democracy in the country. Hence, measures have been taken to enhance security in the country to arrest any suspects that could cause trouble to the security conditions in the country, and who could launch attacks against election centers.
In this respect, around 12,000 people have been recruited to join the armed forces and around YR 27 billion have been allocated to the interior ministry during 2003, Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president of the republic and the Chief Commander of the Armed Forces declared last week.
Interestingly, the allocated military budget didn't exceed YR 7 billion, which signals the government's intention to allocating more money to tackle internal conflicts rather than to expand military capabilities.
Yemen has recently announced its plan to combat terrorism by ensuring better coordination among security bodies and enhancing security procedures around foreign embassies and vital installations.

New policy on security
Accordingly, the National Defense Council (NDC) decided in a meeting last week to implement the policy of security development across the country.
This could be achieved by upgrading new security zones, to be fully equipped with human and technical capabilities.
The decision of the NDC has come in a time tension in the country has been greatly provoked by the current international developments amid fears of performing external intelligence activities in Yemen following or during the war against Iraq.
Such security procedures have been adopted to prevent possible terror activities, which may target US or foreign interests in Yemen when the war breaks out.

Elections to be held on time
Meanwhile, the closing ceremony of the registration process for elections wrapped up last week in the presence of president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The president emphasized the will to go with elections without any delay regardless of international events in the region.
During the ceremony, a speech was delivered by the president focusing on some key internal issues as well as external ones.
As for internal issues, the president called upon all political forces and Yemenis to gather together to bear the responsibility for the forth-coming parliamentary elections to be successfully performed.
“The negative practices, chaos, causing trouble to the security will not be repeated whether by candidates, political parties or social figures. We have to be civilized and bear the responsibility under such difficult circumstances,” the president said.
He further noted that the parliamentary election committees selected the Supreme Committee for Election and Referendum (SCER) in coordination with the groups representing various parties to work together to make the elections a success.
“The significant point in this matter is that the supervision election committee is considered to be an unbiased national institution by all parties.
In order to carry out healthy competitive elections without bigotry, this supervision election committee has been set up,” he added.

Worries about war
As for the regional as well as international key issues, the president has expressed his concerns and worries over the war against Iraq. “The Arab and Islamic nations are anxiously awaiting the unknown because preparations are in full swing on the war-path,” the president said.
He hoped that the war would not break out because it is “unjust” and will bring despotism and an absence of international justice.

Protests against old MPs
On the other hand, an incensed atmosphere was raised in some constituencies over the return of former MPs who had won in the last elections but failed to meet their promises. Around 3,000 protesters gathered in the capital of Sana'a last Tuesday demanding the president and the General People's Congress (GPC) not to allow those members to be nominated again because they were unable to render social services to their areas.

Challenge to the GPC
In this regard, some political observers see that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be a nail-biting phase for the GPC due to the relatively unified stance of the opposition bloc. In the same context, informed sources told Yemen Times that both the Islah party -the second largest party after the GPC – and the
GPC itself will avoid returning some of their old candidates to be re-elected during the upcoming elections.
Despite the success those members will probably achieve in the coming elections, they will not be nominated because most of them have been known to have links with Islamic fundamentalist elements in Yemen.
On his part, Sheikh Abdullah bin Hussien al-Ahmar, speaker of the parliament, the leader of Islah, confirmed that the inclusion of all the political parties for the upcoming elections will enhance peace and security in Yemen.
In an interview to Al-Sahwah, organ of the Islah Party, the Sheikh has expressed his pessimistic point of view over the coming elections due to possible US-led war against Iraq.
He further demanded for carrying out healthy competitive elections without violations which might lead to inevitable political disturbances.