PGC to Get the Upper-Hand in Running Elections in its Favor [Archives:2001/48/Law & Diplomacy]

November 26 2001

The President of the Republic on November 15 issued a decree regarding the appointment of new members at the Election Supreme Committee (ESC). Currently, the ESC consists of six members, including four from the ruling party, the People’s General Congress (PGC), and one from Islah (who has not so far taken an oath). The new ESC will see the appointment of two new members from the Nasserite Party and the Yemeni Socialist Party. Yemen Times gathered the views of different personalities involved in political affairs. Excerpts:
Mohammed Ali al-Saqqaf, prominent legal specialist
There is a direct link between the composition of the ESC and the results of elections. However, what is amazing is the representation of the PGC at the Election Supreme Committee and the size of its victory in both the parliamentary and local council elections. The ESC was formed in August 8, 1992, before the parliamentary elections of 1993. At that time, it included 17 members in accordance with the amended Election Law of 1992. Actually, nine political parties as well as the then two ruling coalition parties (the Peoples’ General Congress and the Yemeni Socialist Party) were represented in the ESC. In 1993, the PGC won 122 seats. As a result of the additional 23 seats coming from independent representatives who joined the PGC, the party obtained 48% of the seats; that is 145 out of 301. Similarly, for the 1997 parliamentary election, the ESC counted seven members of which two thirds were belonging to the PGC. In 1997, the People’s General Congress won a comfortable majority of 187 seats in addition to the 34 independents who joined the PGC. It reached so 73.9% of the seats or 221 of them. In 1999 presidential elections for which the PGC and Islah nominated president Saleh for presidency, both parties had two to three members in the ESC.
Since the inception of the Election Supreme Committee, all its chairmen have been from the People’s General Congress. In the beginning, two of them were civil personalities: Yahya al-Arashi for the 1993 elections and Alawi al-Atass for the referendum and local council elections. Then, the PGC decided to appoint military personalities to run the ESC. The party chose Muhsen al-A’awlefi in 1993 to supervise the 1996 elections. Abdullah Barakat, another military official, was appointed to run the ESC for the presidential elections. He was followed by Khalid al-Sharif recently appointed as chairman for the Election Supreme Committee. The new Election Supreme Committee, responsible for organizing and supervising the April 2003 parliamentary election and the following presidential elections, is composed of four of its previous members surely from the PGC. Furthermore, the appointment of a new member representing the National Council for Opposition (pro-government opposition parties) will ensure the PGC holds two thirds of the ESC’s members. According to the new election law amended in 2001, this majority will actually give the ruling party the right to form all the election supervisory committees. Similarly, the newly-created General-Secretariat of the ESC as well as the chairmanship of the ESC itself will give the PGC the upper-hand in running elections.
Abdulbari Taher, well-known personality
I have no objection regarding the formation of the Election Supreme Committee, as I think that such formation is a good thing. Indeed, the current formation enhances understanding and dialogue between the government and the opposition and helps to consolidate the democratic experience in our country. In fact, the majority of the members of the ESC enjoy a very good reputation. I know some of them and have no doubt about their morals or competence. However, I think that the problem does not lie in the formation of the ESC but rather in the electorate registration lists, voting cards, and above all in ensuring the neutrality of the ESC as well as of the public funds. Moreover, solving the electorate locality of the armed forces is of main concern as voting for the ruling party has become one of the army’s duties. Consequently, all the election registration lists should be cleaned up by removing duplicate names which would put an end to falsification in one of its different forms.
Abdulaziz Sultan, Editor-in-Chief of Alwahdawi
This time, the formation of the new ESC came unexpectedly. The ruling party used to have the overwhelming majority in the ESC, and if other members were to be appointed, they should then be supporters or friends of the ruling party. Yet, the first ESC formed in 1992 in order to supervise the parliamentary election of 1993 included three members for the ruling party out of a total of 18 members. Since then, the domination has been rising steadily to reach four members out of seven this year.

Said Thabet Saeed, journalist
The new membership structure of the ESC reveals the future orientation of democracy in Yemen. Indeed, this is an attempt to redraw the map of political parties in Yemen in a way that gives the last blow to the democratic space present in the country. In general terms, the current changes aim at restricting the supervisory role of the opposition parties and giving all power to the ruling party. The fresh formation of the Election Supreme Committee may lead to the marginalization of all the political parties in its running of the election process and by mandating the so-called General Secretariat to run the elections. The General Secretariat itself has been set up by the government which will consequently allow the PGC to hold the upper-hand in running the upcoming elections. This will be undoubtedly in its favor with the use of falsification. Regrettably, the independent forces have been excluded from the ESC’s current structure as none of their members has been appointed. In short, the new formation of the ESC will not contribute to correct the electoral process but will generate further irregularities.
Abdulkarim Mohammed al-Khuani, journalist
The appointment of the new members of the ESC came in accordance with the law and in the same way that the former members were appointed. Accordingly, the majority of the members are affiliates to the ruling party even though other parties are represented. Thus, it is difficult to say that the current formation fulfills the required neutrality or solves the election-related irregularities. However, what is new in this regard is the confirmation of the ESC’s neutrality as a principle, something which was not stressed upon before. Clearly, the inclusion of partisan members in the Election Supreme Committee is a praiseworthy decision amidst the setbacks and reduction of the available democratic space in the country. It is clear that the agreement reached between the president and the opposition parties has played a major role in making up the law, particularly after the dialogue between the opposition parties and government reached a dead end. The new structure of the ESC could be a success in an effort to limit its deterioration, but it does not change anything with regard to the neutrality of public funds or official media. In addition, the existence of such a committee will lead to the acceptance of a new election system instead of the constituency-based system. This will also be coupled with expanding the ESC or forming it based on new standards insisting on competence and capacity. Unfortunately, the current ESC was formed on political affiliation, loyalty and conformity. Therefore, its neutrality will not be more than a word.
Abdullah Ali al-Sadah, Secretary-General of Sons of Yemen League
The Sons of Yemen League accepted the new structure of the ESC as we expected such a formation, especially after the government and the opposition parties reached an agreement stressing the necessity of having all political parties represented in the ESC. Clearly, the new formation of the ESC is dominated by the PGC, even though two personalities outside the ruling party were included. The current changes are undoubtedly meant to prepare the ground for the post-President Saleh generation. This move is clearly represented by the increasing number of young people in government and public institutions, such as the People’s General Congress itself. We think that the freedom and fairness of any election lies in supervising elections jointly and not unilaterally.
Mohammed Abdulmalik al-Mutawakil, famous political analyst
I am no longer concerned with giving a diagnostic on a well-known disease, which is clearly present in most parts of the ruling party’s practices and conduct. The ruling party has a backward totalitarian mentality and is therefore unable to adjust with the new demands and factors of the modern age. Actually, so far the ruling party has failed to cover its weakness, as the problem is not really related to the appointment of some officials in certain positions, including those in the Election Supreme Committee, but rather lies in the mentality that demands that people be puppies and parrots.
The Election Supreme Committee, the amended law and the Constitution itself are all part of a farce created by the ruling party in order to give itself false legitimacy. The latter comes from issues such as the constitutional amendments, which were previously rejected by the people. Clearly, the ruling party has failed even in its attempt to be democratic. So, I do not see any possibility that this party has a real intention to change its tyrannical and totalitarian culture. Consequently, the struggling forces working for the sake of freedom and democracy have no alternative but to develop the people’s awareness in a drive to exert strong pressure on the political will in ways that leave just two alternatives: the ruling party reorganizes itself and accepts the people’s will, or it simply falls down.