Power Coflict in Yemen [Archives:2000/24/Law & Diplomacy]

June 12 2000

Talking on democracy in the Arab world sometimes assumes a theoretically complex dimension, making the concept of democracy a bit problematic. The question is how we can guarantee that the government is run under supervision and knowledge of the majority. The PGC has proved that it had won a narrow majority and from the beginning it started looking for alliances and managed to ally itself to Al-Haq party. What we are talking about is a real popular majority. The political problem of Yemen is that the rule was characterized by conflict of elites representing, regional , ethnical or tribal minorities while the popular majority remained marginalized and far away. Since the Immamite rule the right to government was confined to an ethnical minority, and even within that context there was a factional or certain tribal forces that spread their control and thus the rule was rendered into a narrower circle. This conflict remained active even during the post-unification phase. The regional minority groups indulged into strife, conflict and competition over the assumption of power without giving attention or concern for the majority opinion. The sources of power are controlled by a certain tribe, a certain group here or there, still this group continues in its conflict. It makes no difference whether this is in the southern part or in the northern part of the country. What is apparent is that the voice of majority is inaudible in this context. To settle the issue of authority in Yemen, I think one should take the following points into account:
The right of the people’s majority. No doubt, the republican system has granted equal opportunity to all, which is a positive sign. But, the major tools of authority still continue to remain in the hands of a limited tribal regional sect. The morals of the ruler are a decisive factor for getting a good governance. Let us take the example of president Clifton’s involvement in the sex scandal and how he acted to get out of the accusations. The American example is a significant point to be taken into account when dealing with authority . Wasn’t it in the hands of president Clinton to put the investigating officer or who accused him of adultery in jail? If we deeply analyze the issue we can see that he did not have the power to do such a thing in a democratic system. To use the army against the Congress in the context is impossible. Such a sort of thinking is irrational too. It is more important to deal with the issues of wealth, power and authority. Since wealth remains determinant of power in the hands of the authority, it is not possible to tame the authority or subjugate it to law. Then, how are we going to solve this issue? If we take the example of the U.S. we can clearly see the use of tools to subdue to subdue others is not seen in US administration. When I speak about uprightness of power I wager on morals of the ruler and nevertheless it is of no avail to bet on morals of those in power because in its very nature it tempts the ruler to injustice. The sound path is that the authority should not enjoy monopoly of or monopoly of wealth. If we don’t settle this issue, then these ideas will remain only slogans and there would be impossible to achieve distribution of power. The only available path for us is therefore to struggle to transform elections to a real mechanism for peaceful transfer of power. Such mechanism will put the authority in the hands of the majority. No region or regions will claim the right to steer the state at the expense of the popular majority. The more important thing is what kind of role the opposition party should practically play? The practical way lies first in embodiment of these meanings within the parties and their organizational conditions. To cooperate and coordinate among themselves, the political parties must not escape from the democratic mechanism, i.e. the electoral mechanism and should struggle for putting this mechanism straight. They should make it a reality and the actual inlet for peaceful transfer of power and not to calculate their immediate gains or losses. Even within the PGC, we expect to find in the long-run that the popular majority would inevitably occupy its position and gradually move into the influential core.
Mohammed Kahtan
Chairman of the Political Department, Islah Party