Political legitimacy lost [Archives:2006/941/Opinion]

April 27 2006

Ali Al-Garadi
We still have a few months until this September's local and presidential elections, unless they are postponed for reasons agreed upon by both the ruling party and the opposition if they reach consensus concerning electoral guarantees, on which opposition insists to ensure integrity and neutrality of the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER). Opposition also calls for neutrality of the army, public funds, media and government jobs.

The crisis began in 1990 when political multiplicity was approved, coinciding with reunification. Three years later, Yemen witnessed parliamentary elections in 1993, considered the first democratic station for Yemen's move due to military and political balance between Yemen's two reunification partners – the ruling General People's Congress (GPC) and the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), which joined the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP).

A year later, the 1994 war erupted, wherein the GPC-Islah Party coalition triumphed over the YSP and its allies. The YSP boycotted second parliamentary elections in 1997 when the GPC decided – via the overwhelming majority strategy and use of power – to knock out its former Islah Party ally and expand its dominance. Islah then gradually joined other opposition parties, including the YSP, the Nasserite Unionists, Al-Haq and Popular Forces parties, and formed the JMP.

By the beginning of 2003, the JMP entered local and parliamentary elections with weak coordination and fear following the assassination of YSP Assistant Secretary-General Jarallah Omar, who had a primary role in forming the JMP. Utilizing all means and instruments of authority, the GPC swept a majority of Parliament seats, leading democracy to lose its content while dreams for change vanished.

Yemeni society endured several hardships including rebellion in northern Yemen and forming an exile government in the south, plus sharp political, economic and social tensions.

Fifteen years have passed since adding formal democracy to tyrannical practices that persuade opposition parties to continue beautifying the image of a democratic process with no content. The parties presented a national reform project to lessen central practices and concentration of power in the president's hands. Opposition suggested a parliamentary system, a relative list and enhancing judiciary and electoral management independence. The ruling party rejected the proposal, describing it as a political coup against the regime, while dialogue between the ruling party and opposition returned to its starting point.

The coming months are predicted to be most the complicated in Yemen's democratic history. Two options then will be made available: whether formal democracy controlled by the ruling party directs Yemen into catastrophe, as indicated by international reports, or some in power will show their will to end single party governance and establish a national partnership based on neutral electoral management and respect for public will. Otherwise, the democratic process will lose legitimacy and citizens will endure social and political troubles in a country where 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Ali Al-Garadi is a Yemeni journalist and the head of the media committee of Yemeni Journalist Syndicate.