Opposition condemns decree to form SCER exclusively from ruling party [Archives:2008/1185/Local News]

August 28 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SANA'A, Aug. 26 ) President Ali Abdullah Saleh decided on Tuesday to comprise the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum mainly of ruling party staffers and three members of the Joint Meeting Parties. However, the three JMP members chosen declined the presidential appointment, accusing the ruling party of cheating democracy.

They also claim that the ruling party acted illegally and breached previous agreements between Yemen's political parties and organizations.

In a statement Tuesday evening, the three who rejected the presidential appointment – former SCER deputy chairman Abdullah Al-Akwa'a, Abdullah Dahhan and Mohammed Saif Al-Sharabi – maintained that reselecting them for the new commission lacks the appropriate legal procedures.

They continued, saying that choosing them this way adds a negative dimension to the electoral process and won't help to conduct the upcoming parliamentary elections in April.

The president's political advisor, Abdulkarim Al-Eryani, warned against holding the elections amid the opposition's absence, pointing out that doing so may negatively impact Yemen's democratic experience.

“We strongly reject the ruling party's action in forming the SCER because such procedures are unjust, illegal and meant to help the ruling party control the electoral process,” senior Yemeni Socialist Party leader Ali Al-Sarari stated.

He further commented that under these procedures, there can be no free and fair elections, noting that such procedures add an extra burden to Yemen's worsening democracy.

“The ruling party feels that it currently is suffering harsh conditions and therefore must reshuffle its agenda,” Al-Sarari went on to say. “The ruling party needs to postpone the upcoming parliamentary elections, but it doesn't want to be accountable for such, so it is directing the charge of postponement at the JMP.”

The JMP met Saturday to respond to proposals made by the ruling General People's Congress Party prior to forming the SCER. Sources who attended the meeting said the JMP had three main demands, the first of which is for the government to release political detainees.

The second demand is that both sides must accept the proposed amendments, including the proportional list system, while the third demand stipulates that the names of SCER members be approved only after the previous two conditions are met.

The same sources added that that JMP submitted its list of demands to President Saleh via Islah Party Chairman Mohammed Al-Yadoumi.

Concerning the release of political detainees, which was the main cause of previous agreements breached between the ruling and opposition parties, sources on both sides confirm that the GPC insists the detainees shouldn't be released based on the JMP's demands, maintaining that it is ready to free them anytime, but not as a result of JMP pressure.

Opposition threats to escalate protests fueled current crisis

The political crisis between Yemen's ruling and opposition parties sharpened following opposition threats to escalate their protests in the streets to express their rejection of the previous Election Law, which a majority of ruling party members in Parliament approved more than 10 days ago.

In response, President Saleh vowed to retaliate against any irresponsible actions by the opposition.

According to the opposition parties, the GPC's approval of the old Election Law is strong evidence of its rejection of improving the law and thus, ensuring free and fair parliamentary elections in April.

They allege that the ruling party exploits public funds, property and power to buy votes, indicating that such irresponsible acts may help it win the majority of parliamentary seats in the upcoming election.

Further, they accuse the current government of exploiting the issue of political detainees arrested during peaceful protests in Yemen's southern governorates as a trump card to pressure the opposition parties, disclosing that the ruling party indicated its willingness to release the detainees in exchange for the opposition parties' agreement to reinstate the old Election Law and cancel the proposed amendments to it. The JMP maintains that carrying out peaceful democratic practices is the only way to rescue Yemen from its repeated crises, adding that making a deal with the ruling GPC party to release political detainees is a criminal act because it violates the most basic national and human values.

The opposition parties also lashed out at the GPC for attempting to retain an illegitimate SCER structure, which expired last November.