Presidential election:Bet on the winning horse [Archives:2006/971/Viewpoint]

August 10 2006

President Ali Abdullah Saleh's YR 1 billion donation to Lebanon and Palestine is a good step, once again proving his brightness. It was upsetting how the official media didn't conduct any donation campaigns to encourage Yemenis to help their brothers and sisters in Lebanon and Palestine. I thought that if the government won't do it, then at least the wealthy should, beginning with President Saleh. President Saleh didn't let me down. If the money didn't come from his own account, then at least it came from the pockets of wealthy Yemeni businessmen wanting to support his campaign.

President Saleh knows he can rely on the people's love to win these elections, among other things, of course. And although I'm sure he was grateful for the support he received from Yemeni businessmen, he knew where to redirect it and that was a very good step. Not only did it show his support for our fellow Arabs, it also gained him popularity among Yemenis. As I heard (and I'm unsure of the rumors), it also was a step to overcome disputes regarding using that money in the presidential campaign.

An Australian reporter recently asked me what would be the worst-case scenario resulting from the presidential election and I immediately said, “Civil crises,” something like what's happening in Somalia right now. This actually has been mentioned widely in the political sphere. People fear that Yemen will be divided between those who have power and those who want it. Another issue is that it practically has been the trend that the main opposition candidate in the 1999 presidential election and even now is from the south. The fear is that this might divide Yemen once again or at least hint toward the gist that Saleh is the north's candidate and Faisal Bin Shamlan is the south's candidate.

In fact, I read an editorial by my late father, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Sakkaf, written in May 1999 – less than a week before his fatal accident, wherein he talked about the need to avoid bipolarization in the presidential elections. It was his last editorial ever and it concluded with this line: “National unity and cohesion is an important factor in our future prosperity, peace and harmony.”

Now that I think of it, maybe Saleh is the winning horse after all because the rest of the competitors aren't as prepared. Nevertheless, if the upcoming presidential election results in an actual peaceful transition of power with no side effects, then I truly would say that Yemeni democracy is for real. And I, like many Yemenis, would really want the chance to be able to see this happening, if not in 2006, then at least in 2013.