Silver LiningWill the opposition challenge Saleh next year?! [Archives:2005/852/Opinion]

June 20 2005

By Mohammed Hatem al-Qadhi
[email protected]

The questionnaire that al-Sahwa net published last week about the expected results of the presidential elections September next year has been very interesting and has invited an angry response from the ruling party's media. The questionnaire has given president Ali Abdullah Saleh 47% while the unknown candidate of the opposition parties got 46%.

I do not find an explanation to the anger of the ruling party media which described the questionnaire as false, fabricated and was not based on scientific criteria. It claimed that president Saleh commands the respect of all the Yemeni people and has got a lot of fans. But winning the presidency with 47% does not undermine or defame Saleh or his tenure in office. Rather, it will show, if it happens, that there is real democracy in Yemen. Why this fury?

In a democracy, we should have a loser and a winner. This wrath shows we have not reached that level of accepting the results of voting. I guess if such a result is going to take place, it will be an advantage to Yemen's democracy. It will be an asset to Saleh as well as it will show him as a person who has helped in enhancing democratic values in his society. Having an opposition challenger to Saleh means nothing but that this is democracy and we should accept it. Democracy entails the right of the masses to choose their ruler and we should respect it regardless whether who wins or loses. We can not claim to be democratic while we have only one candidate. This can never be democracy expect in the Arab world where the rulers win elections or let us call it referendum with 99.9%.

But the question that is being raised by a number of people interested in the political life of the country is: will there be a candidate for the opposition parties challenging president Saleh and who?

In the final analysis, the Joint Meeting Opposition Parties must have a candidate to run the presidential elections. This is very crucial, otherwise there will be no meaning for having a democracy. I know that it is a big challenge for the opposition to do this but they should face it if they want our democracy flourish and prosper. I agree with Ali Saif Hasan of the Political Development Forum when he told the media recently that “if the opposition coalition does not have a nominee to challenge Saleh, the wheel of politics in Yemen will come to a standstill.” This is very true as this will bring about hope and optimism among the masses that a change is still possible. Otherwise, the people will go more and more pessimistic about the ability of the multi-party system and democracy to breathe a new hope of change into their life.

I know that some people will say that tomorrow never comes and that their participation in parliamentary elections most of the time does not bring fruitful results as they see the same people, the same parliament, the same majority and the same decisions. People are losing hope that their parliament which is toothless is in any way representing them and voicing their problems.

The opposition should not betray the general public and allege that they cannot have a candidate to challenge Saleh due to this or that. They should, however, live up to the expectations of their fans or die out.

To drive the point home, I envisage it is very important and to the benefit of our emerging democracy that there should be a real challenger to president Saleh. It wile b a privilege to Saleh to win elections with 51% rather than with 90%. In other words, the coming elections is a genuine challenge to both the ruling party and the opposition coalition. In fact, it tests and questions the legitimacy of political system and sustainability of Yemen's democracy at large. Don't you think so?!