Post election issues [Archives:2006/995/Opinion]

October 2 2006

By: Nabil Al-Soufi
The elections have come to an end and Yemen has returned to everyday life.

We are not in Los Angeles or in Chicago.We are also not in London where the political party announces the end of its leaders, as what happened to the leader of the Conservative Party Margaret Thatcher and now the process for Labour Party leader Tony Blair.

We are not even in the villages of the south of Lebanon or the refugee camp of Jenin in Palestine where the municipalities undertake everyday affairs of the people.

We are in Yemeni governorates with provincial capitals without clean water distribution in addition to incomplete paving of streets in even the rich residential quarters, let alone the poor areas of the town.

We are in Yemen where the presidential house is more important and more expensive. Small business shops, built into the sides of houses, pay high rent and have trouble staying in afloat. But in the presidential house billions of dollars are gathered and spent in the blink of the eye similar to the princedom house in Kuwait or Abu Dhabi and the King's Palace in Riyadh.

The meaning is that we are a weak country not just in its financial capabilities but also in infrastructure. This is not the main problem. We are talking about the biggest political activity in the region, but also we talk about a country the politics in it has relationship with the daily life of the citizens except if we were to consider the providing of a theoretical substance for qat-chewing sessions as a national task.

I listen to a cassette of a fluent preacher talking about excessive wealth as a cause of evil and know he has brought cassettes to a country different from his own. Nonetheless, his preaching finds a good market where the poor segment of the people listens carefully to warnings of richness though there is no one rich among them. I wonder how to compare properties of the group of Hayel Saeed inside the boundaries of Yemen to one of the companies of Bin Laden in Saudi or Ammar the Emirates? I can say that the profits of one year of Natco or the National Dairies Company can be compared to profits of their similar ones in the neighboring countries in one month. What is meant in the two cases is to say that our problems are fully separated from our culture, whether religious or administrative or financial policies.

Re-arrangement of awareness

We have to, after the winning of the presidency slogan of 'New Yemen and Better Future', put again the issues on our table and we have to object the president's insistence that Yemenis voted and elected him for fear from a destiny similar to Iraq or Somalia.

Democracy is the entrance to development and stability and not the chaos in any country whatsoever. Said Barre of Somalia and Saddam Hussein of Iraq are themselves who sowed what is happening now in their countries, it is a result of the policy with which they ruled. They have not preserved development or sowed freedom. On the other hand do we have the right to be ambitious or will we find ourselves as we are now after the next seven years? Will it be just speeches and wrangles while the real Yemeni owner of the interest, who is poor today although he is the one who possesses the electoral voice, lives in more tragedy and disaster? I am optimistic not because of partiality to the president or naivety, but because I want to keep what I will say in the future and to not aggress on the strategists or the fortune-tellers, both of who are specialized in talking about the invisible.

Before the opposition

Away from soothsaying of the brothers in the General People's Congress media who, as a journalist without a partisan stance, I find myself these days as close to them, except in the fortune-telling, such as the collapse of Al-Yadoumi the shock of Al-A'nisi and dismantle of the Joint Meeting Parties. I think all have tasks to do. By the end of his post as secretary general of the GPC, Dr. Abdulkarim Al-Eryany, gave some suggestions to the opposition parties calling them to be busy with their basics and their own performance instead of chasing the ruling party and to nourish on its mistakes. Some of us then attacked him because he had only to be liable to advice and not to advise as well.

Time has come now to give the opposition the same advice. The interest of Yemen is in a strong opposition even if President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his party do not want opposition. is the only new thing that the country has not witnessed sine the imam Yahya had undertaken the rule the beginning of the last century. We want opposition concerned with weighing the loaf of bread, the layer of asphalt in the streets, problems of rent. We want an opposition that knows what goes on in corridors of courts, what small tradesmen are exposed to, the sufferings of peddlers and details of daily life in the villages and countryside, the mountains and the valleys. They should support the youth of the village to build a sport club, the young girls for founding a social society and residents to have cooperative societies. This is done not through statements or orders to the press to tackle the problems just to avoid the blame but rather realization for which the days of the organization are devoted. To sum it up, there are great duties awaiting the opposition parties, the official policy does not encourage but we cannot wait an official permission for such an act. It is a national duty in order to achieve a popular balance preventing the ruler from tendencies of despotism.

Re-building alliances

An important subject can now be discussed and the opposition can take the initiative in this regard, it is the re-building of alliances. The question is not about the existing political alliances: JMP versus the GPC, but rather alliances not related to elections. They are about issues and for restoring balance in the general street. Our detailed general issues are the biggest loser, such issues like the freedom of expression, health and medicine, management of residential quarters and villages, prisoner rights, management of border crossings and administrative rights of employees. I think the opposition initiative towards those details will protect it from getting suffocated in talking about the presidential house and would support any positive directions inside the GPC concerning those issues for the general interest.

The rule also has duties

The rule with its three powers is need of stopping speeches from above and to think of bases of the crises and allowing the society to discuss these challenges and all what we have heard from the president of the republic about formation of government and outside government committees to implement his election platform. In fact such a trend might arouse fears from two orientations.

The first fear is from doubling the power of the presidency at the expense of executive power centers which means paralyzing this post by a group of more authorities and duties and which consequently come from canceling parliamentary elections. These elections are the element that actually decides the government program because the majority party wins the confidences from the legislative power.

The second fear may be confusion of government institutions that work according to annual or five-year plans through and giving them an excuse to delay. I think it's important to emphasize the general direction of the Yemeni state represented by the approach mentioned in the platform of the GPC's candidate by which it has won confidence.

Activation of local administration, an urgent priority

Before I have written this paragraph I searched for a long time for the developmental unit that is the most important in any society. It is the medium institution between the higher and lower levels and in our country I think they are councils or offices of the governorates. It has been apparent the extent of this unit's effectiveness in the electoral battles. The governors, though they hid behind a temporary official, namely the head of the GPC's election campaign, were themselves the technical tools of victory. I have searched about their last meeting as governance council and I was shocked that I did not find any meeting of them as a council or individuals during the past two years and a half.

I think the real instrument of development is these units must double its affiliation to local society. Some governors have nothing to do with activities of their local society. They do not know about the biggest sector of employees or the needs of social organizations and political divisions. I attended two meetings on fishery and electricity concerning Hadramout, attended by ministers under organization of the governor Abdulqader Hilal in Sana'a, unfortunately the two meetings and what they discussed of activation of relationship and interest between the local societies and their issues was not an object of the media interest.

I asked whether each governor has an understanding his governorates. Are they the teachers, the soldiers, the fishermen or the workforce or vehicle drivers? Does he have any relationship with branches of the political parties? Where is the governor who we saw at offices of any of the political parties in his governorate discussing with that party its role in the public life in enlightenment in the national campaigns?

I think Yemen is in need of taking interest in the council of governors or to follow up their relationship with needs of their local society. Surely that does not mean the government is in a better situation. There are some ministers who do not think they are running ministries lacking work strategies and poor administrative situation. I believe if their present head, Abdulqader Bajammal, got more authority he will achieve with them. It is a wish to see a government shuffle removing some of the faces that are actually against the new approach.

Fighting corruption

Although the talk about fighting corruption in Yemen has become an international demand the issue is not a repetition of Arab experiments where fighting corruption means ending what has remained of the institution and building a new force whose task is building a new despotism under the pretext of development. Can we remember achievements of totalitarian parties that fight corruption with tools of political conflicts?

Corruption in Yemen is not just the corrupt persons and an ethical address. In statements they would have been a cause of worry pushing some to pay the price for the absence of institutions and malfunction of mechanisms.

Fighting corruption in Yemen is only through building concerned institutions managing contracts and finances and protects legal duties. Any selection under any influences will lead to failure and rather to harming complications. We have witnessed some experiments, though few, but they disclosed the possibility that the regionalism becomes the first protector of those accused of corruption. Here when the local society does not see a general institutional and quiet performance it would find itself forced to defend his corruption even while it is complaining of the impact of corruption.

Nabil Al-Soufi is a Yemeni journalist and Editor-in-Chief of News Yemen website.