Reining in The Cronies [Archives:1999/39/Law & Diplomacy]

September 27 1999

By: Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi, 
Managing Editor, Yemen Times 
Inspite of all the mistakes and lack of a real healthy competition in the presidential election, the 23rd of September will be recognized as an important day in the history of democracy in Yemen, since it has marked Yemen as a presidential system, where the president is nominated through direct voting by the people. This election has brought Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for the last two decades, to the office of presidency. He might be again in the office for the presidential office is determined in two terms only as the Yemeni Constitution dictates. 
However, holding the presidential election is fine for it will establish a democratic tradition. 
I visited several voting centers and constituencies in the day of the election. I found that the participation was good in some centers and low in others. I asked some men and women about the reason why they were voting. I could understand that most of these people do not have a convincing reason why to vote. I, moreover, even asked them whether they expect accomplishments of the election programs of the two candidates. I noticed that most of them have not even heard about these programs, thanks to the high rate of illiterate people in our society. In other words, most of the people are not fully aware of the importance of elections and that it is one of the most important means of democracy. This means that these people might be blindly mobilized to vote, not necessarily in this election ,but also in any kind of future elections. It stands to reason that the Yemeni people need to be educated about the significance of democracy and their participation becomes vital since it is their participation that determines who is to be elected. People should understand that election is their means of change. In other words, the democratic culture is highly needed. In this connection, , the NGOs relating to democracy have to work very hard and raise the public awareness towards the vitality of this issue. People should not be just parrots, repeating what others say. Rather, they should be learned and hence be able to practice this democratic right dutifully which can have positive outcome and leads to change. Furthermore, when this required change takes place, they will feel that the practice is fruitful and accordingly will be enthusiastic about coming participation in any other elections. 
Well, now President Saleh is again in office of presidency in his first five-year term, which coincides with a new beginning of a new century and a new millennium. From that standpoint, it coincides with new hopes and aspirations for a new reality more in keeping with the requirements of a new and different world. The most challenging issues the president will have to face as the new century unfolds are the questions of alleviating poverty, unemployment, political reconciliation, insecurity, kidnapping and others. He has to give wider scopes for investments so as to reduce the ratio of poverty which has reached 30% as the population increase proportion is 3.7%. 
The President has five years to bring about the required transformations and uphold what has now become a global demand, that of implementing democracy, press freedom, human rights and pluralism, with no other restrictions than those prescribed by law. However, this is not likely to take place unless he reins in and impose stiff measures against the cronies existing in the power center and affecting the decision making; those who look only for their interests. These cronies should remember that the people can no longer tolerate all these sufferings and economic hardships which have taken a heavy toll of their lives. They should also remember that if the crisis situation flares up, they will be the first target. They have taken much of the welfare of the people and that is ENOUGH. Therefore, they should wake up and be a good support for the President to implement his election program and prove to the people that this time is different and change and reform is inevitable. This is because a genuine democracy and corruption do not coexist, for development comes about in the context of a genuine democracy. We are all supporting the President to make his election program materialize, establishing a civil society based on law and order.