SILVER LININGIslah and the two Sheikhs challenges [Archives:2006/986/Opinion]

October 2 2006

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
Last week, I talked about the challenges of the post-elections era, mainly those of the winner.

Here I want to discuss the main challenges awaiting the opposition coalition. I believe nobody can neglect the important role Al-Lika Al-Mushtarak played in the recent elections. They should be proud they put a serious challenger up to President Saleh, giving the people of Yemen the right to have a real choice for the first time in their life. This is a great achievement despite all the irregularities and shortcomings. I think Faisal Bin Shamlan is the man who should command the respect of everybody as he has given the country and the people a real sense of pride.

One important issue which has to do basically with the Islah and their two Sheikhs: Abdullah Al-Ahmer and Abdulmajeed Al-Zindani. The two men are holding the most important positions in the party. However, during the elections they worked against the interest of their party and its political platform. They violated its rules. It is ridiculous to find a leading politician supporting the rival of his party. Sheikh Al-Ahmer backed the GPC candidate which definitely affected the position of the opposition. Even if this is personal view, it is unacceptable in the culture of politics.

Similarly, Sheikh Zindani supported Saleh, abusing the position of his party. Although, he did not declare openly his support of Saleh, he never showed any support for Bin Shamlan or attended any of his elections rallies. And by such failing, the two Sheikhs contributed to the failure of their party. I wonder why these two people should continue to lead a party to which they are not loyal. They are really a heavy burden on Islah whose leaders have to discuss their future position in the party very seriously.

Another important issue is that the opposition should address their shortcomings and substantially scrutinize the reasons of their defeat. The most important challenge is to keep their coalition together.

There are now rumors Islah feels its coalition with the Socialist and the Nasserite parties contributed into its defeat, particularly in the local elections. I think such allegation is not true. The coalition of these political parties with different political ideologies is impressive. The presence of Islah in this coalition has helped the party to go beyond its Islamist agenda into a real political party with a genuine platform. The ruling GPC will continue trying to attract other parties, mainly the Islah and the Socialist, in an attempt to split their coalition. The protection of this coalition will guard the democratic experience.

The opposition defied Saleh to the last moment and challenged him seriously during the elections. Therefore, their supporters expect to see improvement in the work of these parties. They want to see these parties more involved in the lives of the people, challenging the wrong policies of the GPC.

By and large, the existence of a strong opposition is also in the interest of the GPC as it will truly boost the democratic experience. It was a serious and real contest in the recent elections by the opposition that invited the respect and praise of everybody.

The French embassy and media

Some of the Western embassies always underscore the right of the people to be informed and criticize the Yemeni government policies on access to information. But, when these embassies become the source of this information, they act even worse.

Let us take the latest kidnapping of the four French tourists. The French embassy refused to talk to local journalists, but did talk to French media. When the tourists were freed and brought back to Sana'a via a military helicopter, a pack of journalists like hungry wolves were waiting at the gate of the airport. We waited hours but we told they went through a military airport. Then we were told they were at the interior ministry and then at the French ambassador's residence. We could not talk to them. The same thing took place during their departure the other day. We waited at the airport more than three hours in the cold weather with no avail. They escaped secretly. I do not really why the French embassy did not want them to talk to the media in Yemen while they had a press conference upon their arrival in Paris. It is ridiculous of the French embassy and the interior ministry to behave in such a way with the media. We want our interior minister to learn something from these Western embassies that they can never ignore the right of their people to know and without reluctance give information to their local media. Our minister promised to set up a media center and facilitate the flow of information but the promise is stuck. Will this guy show one day any respect to his people and their right to know?

Mohammed Al-Qadhi is a Yemeni journalist and columnist.

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