Parliamentarians of Arab Countries Witnessing Meaningful Transformation Speak to Yemen Times [Archives:1998/11/Law & Diplomacy]

March 16 1998

Starting from Sunday, March 15th, a three-day pan-Arab meeting of parliamentarians is underway in Sanaa. The 31st Round of the Congress of the Union of Arab Parliaments, as it is officially called, has brought together 19 delegates plus the secretariat of the organization.
Arab parliaments are a man’s world. That is why, with the exception of the Algerian delegation, which includes one woman, all other delegates are male.
At another level, a few Arab countries do not have parliaments, but some are inching their way towards some form of representation of the public.
Bin Sallam of Yemen Times spoke to five delegates. This is what they said:
Ms. Zuhoor Wanisi, Algeria.
1- We are happy that this conference is being held in Yemen. Through this conference, we hope to take a serious step towards our countries’ union. We hope to avoid the routines and bureaucracy that plagued all the pervious conferences. There must be more responsibility and more honesty from all the participants in order to tackle the bad situation in the Arab World.
2- Algerian MPs are all the elected to play important roles in the country’s salvation; politically, economically and socially. The democratic process in Algeria is very serious. No one can doubt its honesty since it is based on free and fair general elections. Freedom of opinion and political pluralism became turning points in the history of Algeria.
3- Despite the political and economic crises that Algeria witnesses today and despite the terror, Algeria was able to develop quite a successful democratic process.
Of course we have a lot of differences today. But I am sure that things will change for the better in the future. The Algerian Parliament is 100% formed through free and fair elections.
The majority of the Nation’s Council was also formed through elections, the remaining 1/6 was appointed by the president himself. In fact, all the local councils were formed through general elections.
At first, we may face alot of difficulties and suffer from many crises. But, we will surely come out with good results at the end. We shall not be only the fist Arab country, but also the fist country in the whole continent of Africa which objectively applies democracy.
4- The parliamentary process in Yemen is really honorable. Yemen was able to achieve a lot, despite all difficulties and crises. It is enough to appreciate Yemen has preserved its unity.

2- Dr. Ali Al-Khaleel, Lebanon:
1-The Lebanese parliament has been and still is in the forefront of the other parliaments in the Arab World. We have always emphasized the importance of Arab parliamentary diplomacy in serving Arab issues.
We took part in several Arab and international parliamentary meetings. This congress is a continuation of these activities.
2- The Lebanese parliament has always been active in its legislative endeavors and in monitoring the activities of the government.
The Lebanese constitution was last amended in 1990 to include the most important political reforms that were agreed upon by the various political parties in the Tayif conference of 1989.
These reforms have led to balancing the various authorities in Lebanon.
The relationship between Lebanon and Syria was crowned with an agreement that serves the interests of both countries.
3-We always aim to achieve practical results by meeting with our Arab counterparts. In the previous meeting in Cairo, a decision was taken to form an Arab common market. A follow-up committee was formed to support this decision. In this meeting, we will discuss the most important developments in this field.
This is the first time in ten years we can seriously discuss the establishment of an Arab common market. It will play very important roles by serving the economic interests of individual Arab countries and the interests of the whole Arab nation.
At this age of globalization, the Arabs must come together in order to protect their common interests. The Arab common market will also help us to stand up to the Israeli attempts to dominate the Arab economy.
4-Parliamentary democracy in Yemen has made a lot of progress through emphasizing political freedom that represents the people’s will.
Al-Tayyib Al-Sahbani, Tunisia.
1- This meeting comes in a particularly difficult situation for the Arab World, in view of the recent international developments that now govern world politics.
We will review the developments in issues that were discussed in previous meetings. Past stances taken by these meetings are no longer appropriate for the latest developments in the world. More objective analyses are required.
The decisions that will be taken by the delegates in this meeting have to be nearer to the realities of the Arab World.
2- The parliamentary experience varies from one Arab country to another. Generally speaking, such an experience must be more in harmony with the current international trends.
3- Tunisia has adopted a rational approach in its parliamentary experience. This process is based on individual freedom, freedom of expression, and political plurality.
Political pluralism, however, does not justify bitter conflicts and political machinations. It is an opportunity for the people’s representatives to freely express their opinions.
Different political opinions in Tunisia enrich the process of decision-making in the country.
4- We must seriously and with deep insight discuss the issues that concern the Arab World. I hope this meeting will come up with positive and objective results that will serve the interests of all Arab countries.
5- The growing democracy in Yemen is well on its way towards great successes. It is a serious experience in which all Yemeni MPs search for common bases to better serve their constituents.
Judge Abdulaziz Abdullah,
1. This congress is held at a time when our region witnesses a resurgence of pan-Arabism. This can be seen through the across-the-board Arab refusal of the American designs to attack Iraq, and the total Arab disgust with the Netanyahu policies in blocking the peace process and American acquiescence to it.
2. We as Arabs have gained little from the so-called ‘New World Order’. To the contrary, we have been penalized. Do you think it is an accident that the majority of world countries subjected to international blockades, sieges and sanctions are from this region?
3. The democratic process in Sudan is a very successful experience. Parliament was elected by direct popular vote. It actively supervises the executive authority and is a partner of the presidency in enacting laws and legislations.
The draft permanent constitution will soon be ratified. This proposed constitution will be issued and put to a popular referendum. This is quite an achievement, considering this parliament is only two years old.
4. This meeting will address several important issues concerning the Arab World. The Union of Arab Parliamentarians acts as a bridge between Asia and Africa, and even Europe, through the International Parliaments Union. Decisions taken by this congress are closely linked to all the parliamentarian associations.
5. The parliamentarian experience in Yemen is a source of pride for all Arabs. It is the basis of cohesion in the new unified state of Yemen. We greatly admire the democratization process in Yemen.