President Saleh: Stuck Without a Challenger! [Archives:1999/18/Front Page]

May 3 1999

There is a lot of fighting going on these days between Yemeni political parties, particularly in regards to the upcoming presidential race. 
The Yemeni Congregation for Reform (known as Islah) is upset with the ruling party, the People’s General Congress, because it is unable or unwilling to correct the list of eligible voters for the elections. Yet, it maintains that President Ali Abdullah Saleh is its candidate for president. There is a contradiction here. If the Islah is all for President Saleh, why is it at odds with the PGC and its candidate – President Saleh? 
Then there are the other opposition political parties. The Yemen Socialist Party has been unable to even hold its party convention for the last 15 years. Of course, the party has problems, but it is up to the rank and file of the party to find solutions to the problems. The perennial leaders of the party have no mandate to decide on behalf of the party forever. 
None of the other smaller parties are in a position to field presidential candidates. As a result, President Saleh finds himself running without a real challenger. The joke around town is that he will have to hire one. 
This situation is not an accident. The country has been manipulated by the people in power to reach this predicament. 
The elections, scheduled for October 1999, are expected to cost the nation around YR 8 billion. Many people are troubled by the fact that a poor country will spend so much money to arrive at a foregone conclusion. Several members of parliament and many public figures now suggest using the ‘tazkiyah’ system. This means all sides will agree to nominate President Saleh, and thus side-step the elections. 
Others say that holding elections is building a tradition. They are important for the long-term, even if they have no meaning in the short run.