Peaceful transition of power not expected soon [Archives:2005/907/Front Page]

December 29 2005

SANA'A, Dec. 28 ) The Yemeni Center for Strategic Studies organized a debate on December 27th under the title “Prospects of Peaceful Transfer of Power in Yemen”. Professor Mohamed Al-Afandi, head of the Center, headed the debate. Representatives from the ruling party, Joint Party Union and independents participated in this debate.

A number of papers, tackling the peaceful transfer of power, prospects and obstacles that obstruct its future development, were introduced.

In his paper (Transfer of Power: prospects and ability), Mr. Mohamed Ali Al-Sarari, member of the political department at the socialist party, reviewed the Yemeni developments following Yemeni unity in 1990. He spoke of the multi party system, and press freedom, supposed to exist in a democratic environment. This environment was considered a distinctive achievement for the United Yemen among the region's countries at the time.

However, Al-Sarari believes that achieving democratic practice is still receding, and the indicators are not encouraging. He pointed to the serious set back that Yemen experiences today. He noted the methods of totalitarian certain unacceptable behaviors, hence, changing the democratic practices into hollow logos, devoid the prospect of being a peaceful means for change.

The working paper defined four aspects indicating the negative dealing of the ruling party with democracy. These four points are: rejection of a participatory approach in decision making, decline of democratic practices in public rights and legislations, deterioration of Yemen's reputation is internationally, and the efforts to bring back a single party system. The working paper claims that the regime seeks to make constitutional amendments to strengthen individual control of power. Al-Sarari did not expect any prospects for peaceful transfer of power, because the mechanism of obtaining and exchanging it is sill not within the Yemeni constitutional practices.

He added that obtaining legal power does not take place trough the majority, but by other methods. These include domination over military and security forces and influential tribal fanaticism. The constitutional texts for obtaining power on the other hand remains as nominal procedures and cover, to escape blame of other effective international powers.

He showed several characteristics that enable the ruling party to continue in power. This takes place through legalizing constitutional procedures to control the electoral processes by forming the Supreme Commission for Elections and its affiliated committees. This consequently leads to controlling election results.

Al-Sarari called the Joint Meeting Parties to introduce a political procedural scheme that would pave the way for conducting free presidential elections. It should stipulate a supreme election committee and its related committees on equal basis. It should also constitute terms for freeing official media and preventing them from being bias. “Public funds are not to be used and state institutions should remain neutral”, he said. Army forces are also to remain entirely neutral. International and local effective sponsorship is to be assured, and their remarks and evaluations are to be respected. Independence of judiciary system is also to be guaranteed. All these terms are to be converted into legal and constitutional texts and a legal formula is to be approved for the procedure of transfer of power, after the declaration of election results.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Faqih. Political sciences lecturer at Sana'a University, reviewed in his paper, (prospects of democratic change), the state of democratic practice in Yemen. It tackled its past, present and future practices. He attributed the plight of the democratic practices to the 1990 constitution. “It lacks strong democratic qualities and the democracy introduced by the constitution formed is trivial and dominated by the two ruling parties then.” He said.

Al-Faqih criticized the present democratic practices and said that they do not fulfill the democratic standards. It is suffering a great inability that will evacuate democracy from its contents. He pointed to the confusions in securing freedom of partisan and syndicate formation. Absence of free economy, the restrictions on freedom of speech, and influence of state over official media are some of the flaws in the current democratic system. The anarchy in the voting and nomination system, freedom and fairness of elections and acquiring information other than the formal ones are also absent.

Mr.Yahia Shoja'a, head of the research and studies center criticized the way the ruling party deals with concept of peaceful transfer of power. He commented it is done through hollow slogans and words only. He confirmed that it is a national commitment, practice.

He defended the ruling party against the criticisms directed to it, assuring that they believe in peaceful transfer of power, within the constitution. He said that freedom is being practiced in the country, and even the president is subject to criticism. He admitted that there are some flaws in the democratic practice and held all responsible for the flaws. He asked the opposition to live to their commitments by positively dealing with the democratic practices. He asked them to observe the national interest and not the partisan interests.