Opposition threatens to escalate protests, Saleh vows to retaliate [Archives:2008/1183/Front Page]

August 21 2008

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam
SANA'A, Aug. 20 ) “Opposition parties have the right to announce their objections to whatever happens in the country, but political extortion is strongly rejected and all national parties must respect the [Yemeni] Constitution and Law,” President Ali Abdullah Saleh said Tuesday at a consultative meeting for media personnel.

His statements were in response to threats by opposition parties to escalate protests in the streets to express their rejection of the previous Election Law, which a majority of ruling party (General People's Congress) members in Parliament approved on Monday. Saleh vowed to hit back against any irresponsible actions by the opposition.

He noted, “We are approaching a democratic event, represented by the upcoming parliamentary elections.” He called on all national parties and organizations to participate in the upcoming democratic process, while further lamenting the Joint Meeting Parties' absence from Monday's session of Parliament dedicated to voting on the draft Election Law amendments.

“We had no problem with the previous Election Law,” Saleh said, “We legislated this law with the opposition and we're all partners in it. However, they insisted on amending it, so we responded to their demand.”

Saleh blames opposition for not naming SCER candidates

He further pointed out, “We continued to amend the law for two months until we reached this final version of the amended the law. The opposition parties were supposed to have voted on the [new] law and submitted a list of their candidates for the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum. Regretfully, they neither attended the Parliament session designated for this purpose, nor did they name their SCER candidates.”

The president noted that every political party is entitled to work hard to gain the majority of votes with no fear of the others.

GPC MPs approve SCER candidates list

On Monday, Parliament for the current Election Law – without any amendments – and approved a list of 15 candidates for SCER membership after opposition parties refused to name their candidates for the commission.

“The president [of the republic] now is entitled to select nine of these 15 SCER members. If the opposition parties accept this, then we'll be partners; otherwise, they'll be held accountable for the consequences of their wrong decisions,” Saleh stated.

He continued, noting that opposition parties have the right to declare their objections under a democracy, which grants them the legal right either to participate or to refrain from participating in politics, as well as to protest.

Opposition parties accused of being traitors

President Saleh warned the opposition against escalating protests in the streets against the government, alleging that they don't enjoy good popularity in order to do this. He further accused them of being “traitors” and seeking funds from foreign states.

In a statement to the Yemen Times, Abdurrahman Bafadhl, head of Islah Party's parliamentary bloc, maintains that the formation of the SCER by the ruling GPC party alone violates a recent agreement reached between the nation's various political parties.

Bafadhl alleges that the GPC has created obstacles to dialogue and coexistence with Yemen's political groups and further holds that party accountable for the negative consequences stemming from its behavior.

He continued, “We were surprised that Parliament's Presidency Board and the GPC majority bloc voted in favor of the previous Election Law, despite the fact that we prepared our list of candidates for SCER membership. We were ready to vote for the draft Election Law amendments on Monday before noon.”

Bafadhl expressed sorrow at the GPC's conduct, accusing those whom he described as “influential individuals within the party” of caring more about their own personal interests, thereby creating obstacles to national development and hindering the execution of President Saleh's directives to release political detainees.

According to him, the way the ruling party has behaved may return Yemen to totalitarian reign and destroy all of the positive steps taken toward democracy and pluralism.

JMP parliamentary blocs hold the GPC bloc responsible for the potential consequences of their false allegations and their rejection of amending the Election Law according to a recent agreement signed by both sides.

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JMP statement: GPC practices totalitarianism under the guise of democracy

In a statement released Monday, JMP parliamentary blocs described the GPC's voting for an old law that's already in effect as “disgraceful conduct,” adding that the ruling party cares only about its own interests at the expense of the nation and its citizens.

They further allege that the ruling party practices totalitarianism in administering the nation's affairs under the cover of democracy.

Additionally, the opposition parties accuse the GPC of avoiding the fulfillment of President Saleh's promises to release political detainees, maintaining that the ruling party wants to form the SCER according to its own desires.

JMP: Ruling party exploits public funds to buy votes

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

They further allege that the ruling party exploits its power as well as public funds and property to buy votes, pointing out that such irresponsible actions may help it win the majority of seats in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

According to the opposition statement, the GPC doesn't care about fighting unemployment as much as it cares about suppressing public freedoms, allowing corruption to become more rampant, encouraging corrupt officials to loot public and private property and creating multiple crises that add extra burdens to citizens' suffering.

“The GPC has proven that it is skilled in creating crises,” the statement noted.

Al-Barakani justifies his party's approval of old Election Law

However, head of the GPC parliamentary bloc, Sultan Al-Barakani, justified his party's approval of the previous Election Law based on the fact that the GPC made numerous concessions both to protect democracy and satisfy the JMP. He noted that his party was prepared to let the JMP form the SCER exclusively from its members in the event the opposition coalition cared about democracy.

Al-Barakani accused the JMP of plotting to postpone the upcoming parliamentary elections because it has no clear program to present to voters after suffering unprecedented defeat in the September 2006 presidential and local elections. He disclosed to media personnel that the JMP requested postponing the upcoming parliamentary elections for two years.

Refusing to admit that the nation is entering a phase of numerous crises, the GPC leader stated, “Yemen has good constitutional institutions that are impossible to be affected by the JMP's conduct,” adding, “The two-year dialogue with the JMP was unable to reach fruitful results.”

He disclosed that a disagreement between the Islah Party and the Yemeni Socialist Party regarding appointing a SCER chairman is the main reason the JMP did not present its list of SCER candidates.

Al-Barakani continued, stating that all local and international organizations concerned with the electoral process are aware that that JMP will be responsible for any potential postponement of the elections.

However, YSP-affiliated MP Sheikh Sultan Al-Samie maintains that it is the ruling party that is attempting to postpone the upcoming elections because it wants to begin resolving the several crises it has created in Sa'ada and in the southern governorates.

In an interview with the Yemen Times, Al-Samie stated, “The YSP demands that all political detainees be released before voting on the Election Law amendments. Additionally, we call for adopting a proportional list system in elections so that both small and large parties can be represented in Parliament, as well as help Yemeni women engage in politics.”