On the path to the world’s best democracy [Archives:2006/1006/Front Page]

December 11 2006

Glyn Goffin

SANA'A, Dec. 10 – The September elections were fair and they mark Yemen as an important democratic model for the region, said Baroness Emma Nicholson of Winterbourne from the European Union Election Observation Mission.

The observation mission was back in Yemen to present its final report outlining both the positive developments and the shortcomings of the recent elections.

“We saw open elections representing a milestone in political development,” Nicholson stated. “There were shortcomings, but we don't want to undermine future elections in Yemen.”

The report contains 35 recommendations to improve Yemen's electoral process and eliminate current problems.

To ensure that the shortcomings don't disrupt Yemen's democratic development, Nicholson presented the report to President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the ruling and opposition parties and the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum. She received commitments from the president that he will work toward election improvements.

Although she said the elections were successful, she pointed out that there were failings, but the EU report “proposes throwing away those handicaps.”

One of the main problems the report focuses on is the exclusion of women from the entire election experience.

“This fact seriously undermined the universality and equality of the electoral process, which are fundamental standards for democratic elections,” the report says, outlining problems faced by women candidates and voters.

To combat this problem, Nicholson has submitted a protocol focusing on equality and fairness between genders. The protocol was shown to President Saleh and today, Monday, Nicholson is calling on all political leaders to sign the document as a step toward gender equality.

“When women are excluded, all of society suffers,” said Nicholson, who proposes the EU continue to work with the government to ensure gender equality.

Now that the final election report has been published and submitted, the observation mission officially is finished, but the EU hopes to see its recommendations embraced in order to assist with Yemen's 2009 parliamentary elections.

“If these recommendations are followed, Yemen will have the best democracy in the region and the world,” Nicholson asserted.