SEC Mismanagement Crippled the Election [Archives:2001/09/Law & Diplomacy]

February 26 2001

Mohamed Al-Qadhi
Yemen Times
The idea of local elections is of great importance and aimed at decentralizing authority and expanding public participation. But, running it in a such a farcical way turns it into the reverse as the way the local elections have been conducted has been accompanied by a lot of violations and infringements. First of all, the election process was not run in more than 200 voting centers. This was due to technical problems as well as acts of violence in some areas. Mansur Ahmad Saif, spokesman for the Supreme Elections Committee (SEC) told the press that the SEC was not ready to run the elections as they had only a 3-month time period to prepare for everything, even dividing Yemen into districts. In the beginning there were only 326 but two days later and they were declared to be 332. In addition, he said that voting in some areas was not conducted because the balloting boxes arrived late. Another funny thing is that the voting cards of some governorates went to others which, of course, delayed the process of voting. This happened in areas like Ibb and Dhamar. Moreover, the electoral symbols of candidates in some areas were completely changed. This, definitely, caused damage to the respective candidates in terms of gaining votes.
All these lapses and others indicate that the SEC was not prepared enough to run the election simultaneously with the referendum on the constitutional amendments. This, of course, crippled the election and led to it failing to meet its purposes . This is not to belittle the experience or look down upon it. Rather, these pitfalls could have been avoided if it had been prepared for appropriately and at an earlier time. The American National Democratic Institute(NDI) delegation advised Yemen not to run the local councils elections along with parliamentary elections. This was before the constitutional amendments that extended the parliamentarians’ term in office to 6 years. The NDI said in its report that running both elections simultaneously would put the SEC in a fix. This is what happened causing several problems in the election process.
Another point is this. The heated competition between the political parties in Yemen, particularly between the GPC and Islah, resulted in a lot of problems out of which deaths and injuries occurred. The controversy between the two parties accelerated in the last few days, as it became clear that the two parties were competing with each other very strongly. They exchanged a media barrage in a ruthless way. They accused each other of having terrorist militias and of violating and falsifying the election. Islah accused the GPC of using the public treasury and media to serve its interests as well as carrying out oppression and terrorist acts against Islah and the opposition. It was also accused of murdering independent candidates to make sure of their success, mainly one in Ibb and two others in Al-Baidah. The GPC, however, held Islah responsible for violence and bloodshed in Al-Haimah and other places which claimed the lives of tens of people, most of them security men. This development between the two parties puts their old-aged relationship in jeopardy.
The opposition parties however, claimed the election was “unfair” and” illegitimate” owing to violations that took place during both the voting as well as the screening processes. In a press conference, they even called for re-voting, threatening that they would file a case in court in protest against the infringements which they accused the ruling party of committing. However, they openly said they could not decide whether to withdraw or not. They claimed they needed time to take such a decision. This clearly shows how fragile their coordination is. This call by the opposition to vote again was made fun of by the GPC. It was explained as a precaution to justify their failure in the election.
From this we can conclude that the election process was accompanied by several shortcomings which could have been minimized to some extent if due preparations had been made.