Study: GPC depends on Tribe and state powerTribesmen dominate 30% of Parliament [Archives:2003/664/Front Page]

September 1 2003

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
Sana'a, August 30 – A recently published study on the present parliament structure revealed that tribesmen take over 30% of its 301 seats, something that shows how influential the tribe is still in the social and political life of the Yemeni society. Businessmen rate mounts to 26%, military guys to 8% while 13% is taken by what has been described as the “new-traditional elite”, meaning the sons of tribal sheikhs and political leaders who have received some education but obtain their power of the social prestige and importance of their fathers and families.
This shows that the bond and the cozy marriage between the state and the tribe is still very strong, remaining as a major obstacle to the civilization and development of Yemen.
The study which was published in a book titled as ” Democratic Transition in Yemen: Challenge and Response” by the Yemeni Institute for Democratic Development” said that the rest 23% is distributed among employees (12%), academicians (4%) and holders of other professions (7%).
The ruling General People's Congress (GPC) party headed by President Ali Abdullah Saleh won 229 seats with a percentage of 76.9 %. The study points out the reasons behind this overwhelming victory for the ruling party to the presence of the tribe in the governorates like Shabwa, al-Jawf, Hajah, and al-Mahweet. The GPC also got half of the seats of Saddah while the rest was taken by the independent candidates. Despite the fact that the rule of the tribe is not there in the governorate of Hodeidah, the GPC won the seats of it due to the fact that it is ruled by influential sheikhs. The ruling party failed to achieve remarkable result in the most civilized governorates as, according to the study, it did not succeed in using the civil work means in addressing the people, wining their interest. Most of the people in such governorates are youngsters, intellectuals and other educated people whom the opposition, mainly the Islah party, could address properly like what happened in the capital where the Islah scored over half of the constituencies. The study argues that the GPC won a number of the votes in the urban and civilized provinces as it depended on the power of the state and the influence of some social dignitaries and government officials in manipulating the voters. This puts the ruling party in a fix as it depends on the power of tribe in tribal areas and the state power in others as well as the person of Ali Abdullah Saleh as a president of the party. However, the opposition bets on the role of civil society organizations and development of their work among the public life.
The study has shown that 168 MPS are new comers while 62 join it for the second time and 71 others for the third time. The GPC has 116 new faces, 51 for the second time, and 62 for the third time. The Islah has 32 new comers, 9 for second time and 5 for third time. The socialist has 7 new faces as it boycotted the 1997 election. A comparison between the two sides show that the opposition has tended to present new faces while the ruling party maintained its old candidates and in some cases it presented new faces either because of the death of the old ones or for growing old, or they insisted to present their sons or any of their relatives to replace them.
With respect to the opposition parties, the study showed that these parties won the constituencies where they had coordination while the Islah could win 22 seats even with the competition of other opposition candidates.
Despite these drawbacks, the study said that the 2003 parliamentary election revealed that there is a growing electoral sense as shown in the increase of the number of voters and women participation. However, this does not show paralleled democratic consciousness. This gap entails that all political parties should work hard to increase the democratic sensibility among the people.
It is cynical that while the political regime is presenting proposal to reform the critical Arab situation, it still depends mainly on the power of the tribe to control and parliament and country at large.