SILVER LININGDonors and Yemen’s elections [Archives:2008/1188/Opinion]

September 8 2008

Dr. Mohammed Al-Qadhi
I believe the donors to Yemen are really concerned about the fate of the parliamentary elections scheduled for April 2009. They have been watching the stuck dialogue and verbal attacks and counterattacks between the ruling GPC and the opposition coalition for over a year and a half.

The two sides seem to have reached a deadlock and this is clear from the exchange of letters between president Saleh and the opposition as well as the solo decision of Saleh to go ahead with the nomination of the elections commission representatives without any agreement with the opposition. The current 7-member commission said it would go ahead with arrangements for elections despite the refusal of the opposition representatives named by the ruling party to swear in and take over their jobs.

This situation has pushed the European Commission charge d'affaires to call on the opposition parties leaders to a meeting last week. According to the opposition, the European official expressed frustration that European Union elections team recommendations were not implemented and that EU would not support elections if the situation goes like this.

I think by naming the representatives of the elections commission and abolishing the elections law amendments, President Saleh would like to push the opposition into taking hard decisions including boycotting the upcoming elections and thus hold the JMP coalition responsible for any possible delay or cancellation for elections, presenting himself to the donors as a person who is serious about democracy and that it is the opposition that malingering that has pushed to this deadlock.

And for that he is forced to delay the elections because time is not enough for arrangements for the voting next April. This would achieve his objectives in preparing well for the poll as he needs time to heal the injuries of the Sa'ada war and the unrest in the south. This is because Saleh and his party know well that without the participation of the JMP, the international community and donors would not see any fruits for the elections.

I think the donors are keen to see elections run in due course of time as these elections would measure whether Yemen politicians are serious about democratization or not, taking into account that they come after the major success Yemen made in 2006 presidential and local councils polls.

I understand the donors are prepared to considerate a delay of the elections for a short period of time because they know well that there is no enough time left for arrangements for the voting. But, they are not ready to accept a postponement for over than a year but any longer delay would be a major hold up for Yemen's emerging democracy.

The donors would assess Yemen's democratic drive orientation on the basis of the next elections that would define their support to Yemen government. Any cripple for the poll means an ordeal to donors support. Therefore, it is time now for the donors to act and pressure the two sides to reach an agreement for Yemen and its citizens can not endure any further traumas.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Qadhi ([email protected]) is a Yemeni journalist and columnist.