Opposition rejects Saleh’s reforms [Archives:2007/1090/Front Page]

October 1 2007

Mohammed bin Sallam
SANA'A, September 30 ) Yemeni Opposition belittled the importance of the constitutional amendments announced last Monday by President Saleh and posed once more in his speech made on the eve of September 26. They considered the amendments to be a detour on the real reforms of Yemen's political system as demanded by the opposition forces.

Opposition media viewed the new initiative by President Saleh to be a new attempt by him to stand another round of elections of five years each. These amendments are due to be implemented after by the end of the current round in 2013.

Famous opposition politicians reacted differently to Saleh's initiative and considered it to be a new wit for political parties.

In a political symposium held on Friday, Supreme Authority of Islah Party member Mohammed Qahtan hinted the presidential initiative is made to lessen the public pressure on President Saleh. Especially after the recent price hikes, noting the amendments aim to grant President Saleh a new term of ten years by the end of the current term.

Commenting on Sa'ada events and the public grumbles, Qahtan pointed out the ruling authority has not realized yet that Yemen has become a large country and it still has a simple and narrow thinking limited to the tribe, family and clan at the risk of home.

Yemen Socialist Party's Political Bureau member Ali Al-Sarari did not rule out the idea that President Saleh's proposal is a tactic maneuver for keeping the existing political system. Despite the fact that such a tactics do not comply with the nature of Saleh's ruling system.

Al-Sirari criticized harshly the absolute Presidential System as presented in the presidential initiative, saying that President Salah, by this system, aims to reach super-absolute power after he already had the absolute power.

“The problem for which the initiative was made is that President Saleh does not enjoy the absolute power, despite the fact he has all authorities in his hand and further is immunized against accountability and now he wants to immunize himself against criticism by laws like National Unity Protection Law,” said Al-Sarari.

Secretary General of Popular Forces Union Party Mohammed Al-Mutawkel disclosed the nature of the presidential system after he had met early with President Saleh.

Al-Mutawkel stated that President Saleh believes in canceling the post of the prime minister: giving himself the authority to form a government including six ministries: Foreign Ministry, Public Security, Finance Ministry, National Wealth Ministry and Planning; while the tasks of other ministries are delegated to the local governance authorities.

He insinuated that he did not see an integrated view as for the nature of the local and presidential systems by President Saleh or Local Administration Minister.

Lawyer and political activist Yassin Abdulrazzaq said there is nothing new in these amendments and they are just in an effort to detour the existence of any real reforms for the political system in the country.

Al-Sahwa.net, organ of opposition Islah Party quoted Abdulrazzaq as saying that President Saleh resorts to amendments whenever he sees his term is about to be finished, adding it seems that inheriting the reign has plunged into a close tunnel and thus Saleh tries to continue in power through making amendments.

Researcher Mohammed Al-Qahri asserted the initiative is politically hollow, as the articles relating to decentralization and Parliament do not suffice. While, at the same time, referendum is still adopted. He noted the proposal of the presidential system aims to keep the power in Saleh's hands and his inheritors.

“Despite the fact that the economic aspect is the base for resolving the current crisis, the initiative is empty as it included no economic treatment and thus failed the dreams and trust of investors and consumers. Price hikes, unemployment and scarcity of commodities will remain existent r the crisis will be worse and thus there will be more protests and the collapse of the economic situation,” declared Al-Qahri.

He went on to say, “The initiative is futile and it just helps to return back to the Yemen Arab Republic. And why not when unity was just viewed as an excursion wherein the wishes were fulfilled and when conditions became complex and the matter demanded responsibility and sacrifices, it is better to abandon it.”

Moreover, Al-Qahri viewed the solution in Saleh's resignation and this something he rejects altogether even at the risk of secession. He further the option of secession is possible and it will be implemented politically while the responsibility will be laid on south through media, hinting there is no option for opposition save to join public protests as such protests are sign for ripeness in preparation for change.

Pledge and Accord document

Many opposition leaders assured the solution to the current crisis lie on implementing “Pledge and Accord” document, which contains 18 articles and signed in Jordan in 1993 between Saleh and Al-Beedh last president of south Yemen. The then document was publicly accepted and all view it to be the only way out for the current crisis.

The document stipulates what follows:

– Dividing the country into provinces with full-fledged local governance as well as building institutions state through administrative and financial decentralization. This division should be built on scientific bases, taking into consideration demographic and geographic bases as well as other economic and social conditions. According to this document, the republic is to be divided into seven administrative provinces.

– Local governance is to be made through direct and free elections principle and the elected councils enjoy wide administrative and financial authorities. Each province is divided into sub-provinces and districts.

– The document also stated that Presidency Council should contain five members and to be elected by Parliament and Shoura Councils combined. The Presidency Council is to elect the chairman and the deputy chairman from among them. And the term of the Presidency Council members should not exceed two terms. Further, the members of this council should not engage themselves in any partisan involvement during their terms in the council.

– Members of the Supreme Court are to be elected along with competent and experienced lawyers. They have experience in the Islamic law. The consultative council elects them for one time until the judge reaches one of the two terms or does badly to the profession. It is also to divide the public into military areas, specifying five years as the terms of the senior military and security leaders spent in the leading positions.

– The code also decided to form a national board consisting of the competent national and media elements to supervise the media and plan the official media systems. This is in order to replace the ministry ensuring its services in favor of the community without any bios to any political party. So, the media will be able to do its role properly and perfectly, leaving the state's influence.

Official media retaliates

Saleh also launched severe attack on the opposition as the later boycotted to join the meeting held last week. The meeting aimed to make an open-ended dialogue between the authority and the opposition parties concerning the national issues of whom the political and economic reforms.

He accused the opposition of exploiting the internal events for political purposes harming the country's interest. He presented comprehensive political reforms called “initiative of making constitutional amendments.”

The constitutional amendments initiative aims at improving the political and democratic system, transferring the local authority system into the local rule system.

Official sources mentioned that Saleh's initiative includes transferring the existing political system into a presidential system, giving all authorities to the president. The electoral term will be also changed into five years for two times only starting from the coming presidential election in 2013.

The initiative also stipulates that the legislative power is to be consisted of two legislative chambers namely: the parliament and the consultative council. The members of the two chambers are to be elected every four years. The parliamentarians are elected according to the number of population of the areas whereas the members of the consultative council are elected according to equal representation of every area.

The presidential initiative indicates the replacement of the local authority of the governorates by a local rule headed by the governor elected by the voters' board. It will be constitutionally amended for all these points included in the Yemeni initiative.

Saleh also called the opposition represented by the JMP (Five opposing parties) to rescind its decision to boycott the dialogue with the authority and to have a round -table session for an open-ended dialogue discussing the initiative's points for comprehensive reforms in the country.

It also includes the establishment of local police force in the governorates besides the general central security apparatus representing the entire governorates like the army. The local councils will be in charge of collecting taxes and revenues, allocating a part of them for implementing projects and running works within the local sphere.

The Supreme Commission for Elections will be formed pursuant to the Higher Judiciary Council' nomination of 14 judges. They are to be qualified enough and impartial. Seven of whom are to be selected by the president. However, Saleh's plan aims at allocating 15 percent of the parliament seats for women.

Dim political reform

Meanwhile, a modern American study conducted by the American female researcher Meni Ya'cobiean- one of the specialists who follow up the file of the Islamic movements in the Middle East, described the political reform in Yemen as dim. The study published by the American Institute for Peace (USIP) dated back the reforming retreat in Yemen to 2001. It is attributed to the struggle of the Yemeni presidency to remain in the authority. They amend the constitution to extent the term of the presidency and the parliament. This retreat- as the study indicates- increases the prompt of the president to extent his power over all the legislative powers in the country. He was re-elected for a new term so as to complete 30 years in power.

The study also said, “Despite the dimness of the political reforming in Yemen, the study reports that there are some attempts by the opposition to achieve the political openness. SO, it can move easily and influence the decision making.”

It confirms that democracy in Yemen faces many social obstacles such as poverty and illiteracy let alone the economic corruption. It also indicates that the political reforms started at the commencement of the unification of the two parts of Yemen,1990, in addition to establishing political parties, independent electoral system, expanding the media freedom and then holding the parliamentary elections in 1993.