Political Games People Play [Archives:1999/37/Focus]

September 13 1999

By: Hassan Al-Haifi 
“I tell you, we have become a full fledged democracy like all those Europeans. We are the only country in the area where the top post in the country is now up for grabs to the best candidate – and it is the people who will decide and not the nozzle of the tank!” One of the passengers – a zealous advocate of the People’s General Congress was explaining to his fellow passengers in the bus the significant political changes the country was undergoing as they set out on the bus for the sports stadium to hear the “opposition” candidate spell out his election platform. 
But not all the passengers seemed so assured: Why bother going? They are going to show it on TV anyway.” The bus driver was laying out the choices for monitoring the election proceedings, continuing, “do you all know really what you are going to see and hear.”One of the other passengers, who was sitting on the chair added by the driver, just before the last row in the bus, to increase the passenger capacity of the bus, which usually put the passenger on a 45 degree slant so that his weight is shared equally by the slanting seat and the passenger to his left, said: “I do not understand why none of the other parties could not come up with the candidate who could run for President.” Yet, the ruling party came up with the two candidates competing for the post!””It goes to show you that the ruling party has truly mastered the political games people play, using all the resources it has at its disposal to arrange the democratic process to its own whims and ambitions”, said the passenger who had the burden of sharing half of the last speaker’s weight heaved upon him by the slanting chair beside him.
The PGC advocate, making sure nobody tried to fill people’s thoughts with any corrupting ideas, said: “You should stop reading the opposition papers, who, because of their lack of popular support rely on hitting the Peoples General Congress with lies and false accusations in the hope of attracting sympathy for their lost cause.” 
“You cannot tell me that you really believe that this staged election is for real?” said the passenger who is playing the balancing act, after noting the annoyance of the passenger next to him at having to carry half his weight. 
“The PGC is undoubtedly the people’s choice and is capable of producing, not one, but two candidates who qualify for the nomination and the Presidency, whereas all the opposition parties put together could not get a candidate to win parliamentary nomination, let alone the elections! Even the Islah Party was smart enough not try to compete with the PGC, and went along to support the incumbent.” said the PGC defender in the back. 
The driver volunteered some clarifications: “The Islah and the PGC, as far as I am concerned are one and the same Ð almost. In any case the Islah is sure to have assured itself something in return for keeping its ally at the helms, this way it can continue sharing power, without having to worry about being blamed for the shortcomings of the government. It is a delicate understanding that no one is sure what the final outcome of, will be, but for now it seems an interesting political sideshow that keeps a mixture of power centers deciding the fate of the nation in a precarious way, with no foreseeable trends that could raise hopes.””What was a disappointment to me was the way the Yemeni Socialist Party leader was unable to master the interview on the Qatari satellite channel last week! To think that the guy also was a contender for the Presidency!” said a guy, sitting next to the PGC advocate, who seemed to feel that he was let down by the interview, continuing, “Here is a big chance for the leading party in the opposition to air the views of a significant element of the population throughout the world, who felt that the whole election process is nothing more than a disguise for a referendum, but somehow just could not get his act together.”
The driver had a comment about that, as he pressed the on the brakes noting a man crossing the street, who seemed to be on his senior years, who believed that pointing his scarred bent cane ahead of him, as though this was Moses’ cane, could have no difficulty bringing traffic to a standstill as Moses’ cane was able to open up a canal in the sea: “The YSP paper claimed that the satellite channel had fallen under the remote control of the GPC, and thus went on to try to give the head of the YSP a hard time during the interview.”The slanted man came back with a remark: “Even if that was true, which seems to be highly unlikely, the interviewee should have been prepared to meet any unforeseen barrage of attacks or comments. I do not know what has happened to the once eloquent YSP, whose rhetoric used to have such a fantastic rousing grass roots appeal.”
The driver came back with a justification: “Most of the real smart big whigs of the YSP are out of the country after their defeat in the last civil war. Those who are here are just carrying the name and banner, without really having any political clout. It is hard to decide whether to feel sorry for them or to give up hope on them ever becoming a significant force again in the political arena.””What I really want to know is who’s this second candidate and how did he all of a sudden jump to national prominence?” said the guy sitting next to the driver who has been just squeezed in as an additional passenger, although his right thigh has now become a continuous victim of the gear shift changes, with the gear-shift handle hitting him as the driver shifted down to stop for the new Moses crossing the street. 
“Look, we now have a chance to get to know him, which is why we are going to the stadium,” said the PGC defense spokesman. 
“You think we are going there by our own free will? Our local leaders insisted that we go, or else we will loose the right to gain projects and other favors from the government,” said the man sharing the weight of his neighbor, who started to sense a slight pain from the unusually sharp shoulder of the man next to him, thanking God that his neighbor did not happen to be overweight, while continuing: “Can you imagine the regime insisting that we go hear the ‘opposing candidate’.”The driver again knew how to explain the real circumstances they are going through: “This is what I mean when I say that the whole process has been masterly designed to the last decorative step. The local leaders and all the other major players are going through the theatrics because they know they will be rewarded, while all the rest of you have nothing but threats or intangible promises that only Moses’ cane can make true. How many promises and flowery statements have we heard in the past in return for all our support and sacrifices, to insure that the regime carries on its series of theatrics? What is the outcome of all the support? Nothing, but more flowery statements and endless promises.”A wise old man sitting in the back said just as he gathered his things to get off: “I do not know why all this talk of democracy and elections is bothering you people, when you still have to worry about finding jobs that will enable you to feed your kids”. 
The driver wanted to tease the old man: “Hay, you can’t get out here. I have a contract only to let people down at the stadium and take them back where I picked them up in Sana’a. You forgot that you have been drafted to take part in Yemen’s politics.””Look, son, nobody drafts me to do anything! In my old age, I am ready to die rather than be forced into nonsense that costs billions of Rivals, just so some sleazy politicians can continue playing with people’s minds. Son of a former President or not, I am not interested in playing a game, the outcome of which has been pretty much decided. So let me off to see to the small flock of sheep I have to watch out for. You guys can be herded along all you like, but for me, I like to be the one doing the herding, not the one to be herded. That is the politics I like to play!” With that the old man, also with a Moses’ cane managed to steer his way out, even over the45 degrees passenger, to the backdoor of the bus and down its steps to the edge of the road, at the same time showing a sorry look on his face for the way his fellow passengers seem to display a lack of insight, dignity and self-pride.