Presidential Race Is On [Archives:1999/30/Law & Diplomacy]

July 26 1999

Statement of the Opposition
A Statement Issued By The Opposition Coordination Council, OCC, On The Parliament’s Confidence Vote Against The Council’s Presidential Nominee, Moqbil 
Consequent upon the politically motivated decision of the authorities to confiscate the rights of the oppositions to take part in the ensuing presidential race and thereby attempt to throttle the healthy democratic process, the OCC held a meeting on Wednesday 21/7/1999 to discuss the serious repercussions of this decision and resolved the following: 
In view of their responsibilities for the country’s security and stability, its growth and development, the opposition parties have unanimously decided to expertise their democratic option in which different political and social forces can run for government so as to achieve the desired social peace, put an end to circles of violence, and rescue the country from the rule of autocrats, the usurpers of power and the exploitation of wealth. In this respect, the opposition parties invite the ruling authorities to abide by the spirit of nationalism and practice fair-play in free and competitive elections, and to stop the farce of organizing illegitimate elections so as to preserve the anti-democratic status quo. In this way the chance of democratic progress that could have resulted from real elections can be ensured. 
The move took place during the Parliament’s session on Wednesday 21st of July 1999 bent upon knocking down the nomination of Mr. Ali Saleh Obad, the opposition presidential nominee. This has clearly disclosed the State’s determination to completely tighten its fist on Power. Having failed to reinstate the pre-unity totalitarian regime and autocratic dictatorship by using force during the war of 1994, the ruling authorities are just doing that under the name of democracy. This move has thoroughly unmasked the real face of the government and brought into light their false claims of accepting democracy and the peaceful exchange of power. This move has also underlined the state’s scornful disregard to the national unity and the untold suffering of the masses, thereby announcing its final resolution which can only mean the following: 
* Demolishing the foundations of the country’s political system as guaranteed in the Article No. 5 of the Constitution which states that ” The political system is based on political and partisan plurality for effecting the peaceful exchange of power”. But what has happened actually means that the political arena has become a one-man domain as the opposition’s nominee is out. The formal competition between the President’s and one of his subordinates in the PGC, does not alter the fact that the PGC is competing with itself, a thing that can only happen in an anti-democratic, one-party and totalitarian regime. 
* This move has exposed the hidden anti-democratic intentions of the State and has clearly pointed out the extremely limited democratic margin which is granted by the regime itself so as to hide its real totalitarian nature. In this context, the aim of screening the opposition’s nominee is an outspoken expression of the totalitarian tendency, for this nominee’s agenda carries to the people an effective plan that can deliver the country from corruption, fear and destitution through a new vision that looks forward to new future horizons and reveals the real reasons for the people’s suffering as a result of looting the public treasury and the unlawful practices that have depressingly exhausted the country’s resources and the people’s potentials. Moreover, the opposition’s nominee was the only serious competitor, hence the decision to rule him out of the competition’s arena in an additional regressive step on democracy. 
* This move clearly indicates the fear of the authorities to the people’s will to freely select their rulers. It also highlights the ruling party’s rejection of democratic principles embodied in the country’s Constitution, including the principle that ” The people are the owners of the Authority and its only source”. It also insolently encroaches upon the constitutional provisions contained in Articles no. 4, 24, 40, 41 and 42 related to the freedom of choice and opinion in a fair and honest election, and the principle of equal citizenship and opportunities among the people. These Articles and other similar ones have been crushed with this move, the final result of which is that a considerable segment of the population will be denied the chance to opt for the candidate who can best represent their interests. 
The move which the Parliament adopted was only a theatrical farce reinstating a political decision taken by the ruling group. Not only does this move stand as an aggression against the oppositions’ rights, but it also shows how the power in this country has been completely usurped under the name of democracy and through “the people’s house of representatives”. 
To intimidate the MPs, the Parliament forced each member to put his name and signature on the voting card, thereby preventing them to freely practice their constitutional rights. In the face of such reprehensible behavior, there were a number of upright and outspoken MPs who stood against the unfair practices. Those particular members have indeed played a role model in fighting political terrorism and will remain a source of pride for every honest citizen in this country. 
The statement concludes by expressing condemnation of this anti-democratic stance that actually confiscates the people’s freedom of choice, and make of the entire process a mere game in which elections are a mere eye-wash. This stance will eventually render the ensuing elections meaningless as it rules out the fundamental right of fair competition and the principle of peaceful exchange of power. The statement calls upon the Yemeni people to be aware of the grave consequence of such stance for which the ruling party remains absolutely responsible. 
The Opposition Coordination Council intends to hold further meetings to chalk out further strategies and act accordingly. 

What the PGC Says
To know the view point of the PGC, Yemen Times interviewed Sultan Al-Barkani, Chairman of the PGC Parliamentary Block. 
Q: What is your view point regarding the Parliament’s no confidence vote for Mr. Obad? 
A: The PGC never promised Mr. Ali Saleh Obad nor any one else any thing in regard to this issue. I think the YSP’s non-participation in 1997 parliamentary elections and their negative views and attitudes towards the outcomes of these elections are the real reasons for the recent development. So it is quite natural that Mr. Obad should fail to get the Parliament’s confidence for two reasons: first, the YSP is not represented in the parliament at all and second the YSP still expresses disregard to the voters’ choice in the 1997 elections. There is also Mr. Obad’s Agenda which refers to the issue of national reconciliation – a thing that practically means the abolition of the existing institutions, including the parliament itself. Now can you tell me who on earth can recommend its own destruction? As far as I know, the PGC did not receive any thing from Mr. Ali Saleh Obad, nor from the Opposition Coordination Council in regard to his issue. 
Q: There are a number of political observers who believe the issue of the South will still be alive during the elections. Your comment? 
A: This is absolutely baseless. The candidate running for the presidency will not be the candidate for the North or the South. He will be the candidate for the Republic of Yemen. Those who think in this way are trying in vain to turn history back, to the pre-unity era. This will never happen today, nor tomorrow nor anytime. The issue is not based on south-north lines, for when Ali Abdullah Saleh runs the race he targets both voters in the south as well as in the north. The same thing holds good for Ali Saleh Obad as well had he succeeded in getting the parliament’s confidence. 
Q: During the confidence voting, it was noticed that Parliament presidium directed the process in such a way that every member has to put his/her name and signature on the voting card. Isn’t this kind of illegal? 
A: No, the confidence vote is not a secret balloting thing. We are dealing here with the motion of confidence. It’s often done in an open way. And every body has the right to make sure of the numbers of members that cast their votes. Every member had the chance to recommend whomever he wanted to. There were no prohibitions or restrictions on the process. So, we found that all the nominees including Mr. Obad were voted. There was no influence from the top, nor from anywhere else. 
Q: Any last comments? 
A: One thing I would like to stress. The process in the parliament went according to the established democratic norms. I hope that our brothers in the opposition will understand just that. I wish more particularly from Mr. Ali Saleh Obad and those around him to abide by the rules of the game and try not to hold the PGC accountable for what happened. The PGC have their own nominee and as far as I know we haven’t heard of any party in the world which work for getting his rival to the post, have we????!!! 
In short, let us hope that the YSP leaders and the opposition figures will try to dispense with ideas that do not comply with the true spirit of democracy. 

Najeeb’s Statement
The only presidential candidate who had qualified to run against Ali Abdullah Saleh in the presidential elections is Mr. Najeeb Kahtan Al-Sha’abi. Najeeb is the son of the late Qahtan Al-Shaabi, the first President of the former South Yemen. He is a well known member of parliament and a member of the permanent committee of the People’s General Congress. He is also a strong ally of President Saleh. 
After qualifying to run for the elections, Mr. Najeeb gave the following brief statement about his campaign and future plans regarding the elections: 
” I would like first to express my sincere thanks to my colleagues in the Parliament for their confidence they reposed in me to run for 1999 presidential elections. 
When I decided to run for these elections, I was motivated by a number of factors strongly related to the basic issues and interests of the country and the people. We all look forward to the day when Yemen could become a modern state in which every citizen can enjoy freedom, security and justice. On that day our country shall become a strong and prosperous state ruled by Science and characterized by the noble human values. The accomplishment of these objectives is an arduous task and requires the efforts of all in this country. Before that, a social and political harmony should be attained so as to achieve an integrated outlook that can face the challenges of the changing the destiny of the people of Yemen.” 
” The economic decline and deterioration, resulting from the speedy growth of population, will definitely lead the country in the next few years into serious problems and we must come up with fundamental solutions to start handling these serious issues. 
Let it be known that the last thing we need today is political bickerings or disputes. They can do no good to the country. Yet I am willing to be involved in any serious discussion that would bring us together to work for the development of this country.” 
” Our country has a lot of potential of human resources. We have to bank upon the wisdom and intellect of the people so as to best utilize their capabilities. During my election campaign I will introduce to the public the ideas and objectives included in my agenda and I hope that the race will take a sublime, intellectual course and that all runners will be able to enjoy equal opportunities. I take the opportunity here to invite all voters to positively make use of this opportunity so as to come out with useful results to serve the interest of this country.”On another topic, Mr. Najeeb Kahtan Al-Sha’abi told Reuters that he would work towards giving women full political and social rights. He also stated that launching a nationwide campaign against the habit of chewing qat, would be his top priority. 

Opposition’s Press Conference
Snapshots from the opposition’s Press conference 
In the press conference, held on Thursday, July 22, the question of the parliament’s no confidence vote was the main focus of attention. 
At the beginning, Mr. Ali Saleh Obad, the opposition presidential nominee, was asked to point out the last sentence in the opposition statement which calls upon the people to be aware of the risks and responsibilities ahead and asked them whether this call could mean the boycotting of the elections? 
Mr. Obad answered by saying “When we have applied for nomination in the parliament, we certainly have an agenda which we hope would get the parliament’s approval. Now that the no confidence vote has already been taken, we shall present the same agenda directly to the masses of voters and we would modify our plans according to the people’s reactions. I think it is too early to talk about boycotting the elections. 
Mr. Ali Saif Hassan, the Nasserite’s Assistant Secretary General, answered the question on whether there has been a previous agreement between the opposition parties and the ruling PGC with regard to the PGC’s support in the parliament’s vote. He said: 
“All of us know that Yemen is passing through the post-war era, a crucial period in our modern history, which requires that we overstep formalities and extend the hand of cooperation among us so as to achieve the desired national reconciliation. In this context, we understand that our basic duty is to take part in the ensuing elections as a good step in the right direction of reconciliation. We also think that the ruling party will provide the minimum requirements to make of the forthcoming experience a successful one. Now they have failed to do so.” 
On whether there are unannounced objectives for such a move, Mr. Jaruallah Omer, Chairman of the Political Department in the YSP, said” we are aware that the rulers would not like to allow us to publicly broadcast our agenda through the official electronic media like the radio or TV. In fact they are afraid that our agenda would be publicly known. We believe that a political decision to preserve authority, to monopolize wealth and to control the official media has been taken from the top. As far as the Parliament is concerned, the issue is not purely personal. The essence of the matter is the wish to reject the others and their ideas all at once.” Mr. Jaruallah Omer summarized the whole issue by affirming that “the nominee of the ruling party has chosen the one who should compete with him. It is as if someone is competing with his shadow. This indeed violates the relevant Constitutional article which dictates that the parliament should at least recommend two runners, which means two different agendas and therefore, two different competitors. What is happening now is that we have one candidate competing with his shadow.”