Ongoing conflict eliminates solutions to pressing issues [Archives:2008/1162/Opinion]

May 9 2008

Abdulbari Taher
The opposition and authority share the same issue, as their conflict remains open and not limited to certain national issues that may ultimately lead both sides to sit on one table and discuss these pressing issues with the aim of coming up with a national vision to resolve the current political turmoil. People have become frustrated as no notable progress has been made on the front of suggesting solutions to the pressing national issues.

In December 2008, Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) presented a broad vision, which appeared to be similar to a political speculation, and named it 'Comprehensive Political Reform Project'. JMP demanded the authority converse with its leaders in light of this project, but as both sides showed differing viewpoints over the project, it remained unimplemented until people seemed to be outperforming the opposition in listing demands for the government to meet.

As a result, the opposition coalition found itself obliged to announce what it called 'National Deliverance Initiative', which it distributed to its regional offices as an initial step for having this initiative declared.

The initiative remained secret, which is why it failed to achieve its sought-after objective while JMP leaders ignored it. On the other hand, President Saleh presented a presidential initiative, comprised of specific points. All Yemeni people, and opposition leaders and grassroots were surprised by the presidential initiative, which they view as a presidential precedent that may represent a radical change, not only in the political system's form, but also in its tools. This is what hadn't been considered by JMP, which was heavily influenced by the Islah Party for reasons that have nothing to do with other JMP members.

The presidential initiative evaporated and was replaced by the gubernatorial election, which though modest it is, some opposition Parliament members took part in drafting its law but refrained from voting for it.

Rejection means willful waste of time and effort:

An absolute rejection without any ready-made alternatives means willful waste of time and effort since it leads to creating further crises not to suggesting workable solutions, thereby limiting the number of available options. The JMP member parties unanimously called for numerous sit-ins and protests in solidarity with South Yemen's issue. Despite dissimilar enthusiasms for the call on the part of the Islah Party and other members in the opposition coalition having realized that massive arrest campaigns are launched against their leaders, JMP-organized sit-ins turned to protest against detention of opposition activists.

In this regard, one can notice that the arrest campaigns targets Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) leaders and members, as well as peaceful protest activists while Islah leaders escape such arrest campaigns. Even if some of the Islah party leaders or members are held captive, they are hurriedly released under the so-called public pressure like what happened in Dhalea and Taiz governorates. This pressure did not help release detainees who don't affiliate with the Islah Party.

At this point, it is impossible to talk about redlines, which the relevant sides agreed not to exceed their limits. Consequently, other detainees are not considered strugglers. They are secession instigators, who should be punished not defended.

YSP is lying between hammer of the authority that spares no effort in an attempt to divide the party and anvil of those whom YSP Secretary-General Yasin Saeed Numan named as 'small project proprietors'. Although Numan never submitted to pressures exerted by both sides, he continued talking about the unity as a historical project of the YSP and defending it since he sees it as the cornerstone of a better future for Yemen.

Like states, when parties grow, their burdens and responsibilities multiply and their accounts increase. This applies to the Islah Party whose concessions made to the authority are less harmful than escalating protests that may lead to bad consequences.

In addition, the Islah Party is no longer that introvert group of which the fans and grassroots obey their leaders in all the circumstances. Within this party, one can realize the formation of contradictory visions, interests and directions between Salafi groups extremely engaged in extremism and other enlightened groups having strong faith in politicization as one of the instruments to achieve a long-term goal. In the meantime, the authority has notable influence on both groups.

The Islah Party leaders seemed to be perplexed by positions adopted by other leaders, which they see as never serve the new liberal thinking. Therefore, Senior Islah Party leaders expend great efforts in introducing the new liberal thinking to their allies inside the country and friends in the outside world. Of these examples is that Islahi leaders constituted groups to 'promote goodness and prevent evilness'.

Extremism shown by Islah affects the party's relation with influential tribal leaders, particularly those who receive regular salaries from the government. The tribal leaders predict that the Islamists' extremist behaviors may harm their interests. This fact obliged the Islamist party to encourage these tribal leaders to join the National Solidarity Council, chaired by Sheikh Hussein Al-Ahmar, which may generate income for the tribal leaders.

Abdulbari Taher is a Yemeni Journalist and the former chairman of Yemeni Journalists Syndicate.

Source: Al-Wasat Weekly