Political Parties Split Over Expected Constitutional Amendments [Archives:2000/34/Front Page]

August 21 2000

Members of the parliament read listened yesterday to a letter from the president concerning a draft amendment of the constitution prepared recently by the council. Chief among amendments is the extension of parliamentary period to 6 years instead of 4, beginning from the current period. This means postponing the parliamentary elections to 2003, the source said.
Constitutionally, presidency term is 5 years and the President cannot nominate himself to a third time tenure.
According to the amendment proposes turning the Consultative Council into a Shoura Council containing 111 members instead of 59 with more power to act as another wing to the parliament just like the American Congress. A specific number of members are to be appointed by the president while the reminder are to be elected by people.
Other areas which are to be amended are those related to presidency candidates, political and economic articles in the constitution. Instead of 10%, presidency candidates should be endorsed by only 5% of the parliament to run in the election. In other words, articles to be amended are No. 10, 13, 61, 86, 91, 92, 100, 107, 119, 125, 143, 156, 158 and 159.
The first chapter of the constitution and all political articles are subject to referendum. The remaining chapters can be amended by the majority in parliament and the would-be al-Shoura Council.
Power of the legislative authority is to expand in a way enhancing democracy in Yemen. With changing the Consultative Council into a Shoura Council, the latter is to embrace technocrats and economists. Political and economic articles are to be amended to agree with Yemens tendency towards the free market economy, encouraging and facilitating investment through legal legislations.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh had previously referred it to an ad hoc committee headed by Sheikh Abdullah Ben Hussein Al-Ahmar, speaker of the parliament. The committee included Vice Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Abdul Qader Bajammal, Head of the Constitutional Committee at The Consultative Council Mr. Abdul Wahab Al-Anisy, Minister of Justice Mr. Ismael Al-Wazeer and Minister of Legal Affairs Mr. Abdullah Ghanem before presenting it to the parliament.
On the other hand, heated debates have been risen between the PGC and Islah party which has rejected any amendment to the present constitution. Newspapers have reported Sheikh Al-Ahmar as refusing the suggested amendments because they aim at adjusting some of the parliamentary power to the Consultative Council. However, Mr. Abdul Wahab Al-Anisy denied such statements.
Some sources attributed the Islahs acceptance of such amendments to pressures practiced on it by the PGC as a result of the recent crisis over Al-Thaqafiah newspaper and as a bargain to stop defaming Islah leaders by official newspapers.
Sources from Opposition Coordination Council criticized the amendments describing the whole story as a deal between the PGC and Islah.
As far as tribes reaction is concerned , an official source in the Supreme Council for Mareb and Al-Jawf Confederation refuted in a press statement all excuses to amend the constitution. Moreover, he pointed out that extending the parliamentary period was a sign to the governments unwillingness to accept results of democracy.
The statement stressed necessity of respecting the constitution and called for stopping unjustifiable amendments which weaken power of the constitution.