Suspension, Omission and Amendment History of Yemeni Constitution [Archives:2001/03/Law & Diplomacy]

January 15 2001

Hassan Al-Zaidi
Yemen Times
A constitution is a social contract between the individuals, rulers and ruled, however different their political views are. Constitutions restrict the power of individuals, last for long and ensure sufficient settlement of dealings and relationships between people and authority. A constitution concerns all people, thus, the whole society must take part in amending it. The Constitution of the Unified Yemen was framed after a long struggle between autocracy and the republican regime, between dictatorship and the authority of institutions.
Here, we will explore the history of the constitution amendment starting when the revolution overthrew monarchy in 1962. People thought that they got rid of autocracy or dictatorship. However, a few months passed and a new struggle began. Five constitutions were drafted between October 1962 and December 1970, each of which reflected the essence of the conflict between a President who wanted to extend his power and others who fought to restrict dictatorship and its domination.
The constitution of October 1962 did not grant the President any power to issue decrees. The Revolutions Command Council at that time was in charge of leadership responsibility. It granted the President the right to be elected for presidency and to exercise with the Ministers Council the right of legislating.
When the balance of power favored the president, he issued the constitution of 1963 which disregarded the mode of electing the President of the state. It strengthened the presidents authority and restricted the number of members of the Presidency Council to 13 chosen by him.
After the Amran conference, the opposition exercised influence and the President adapted the constitution of 1964 that stated the establishing of Al-Shora Council. The real decision was determined by the President but the opposition did not like that. Therefore, they held a conference in Khamer City in 1965 and came out with what is now called Khamer Constitution.
Khamer Constitution succeeded in restricting autocracy, extended the authorities of Al-Shora Council and formed a republican council that shared the presidents power and confined him to the Ministers Council through which all his instructions and resolutions were issued. However, the conflict was not over until the President Al-Sallal was overthrown from power on 5th November 1967. In 1970, the permanent constitution was implemented. This constitution extended the authorities of Al-Shora Council as a parliament exercising legislation, supervising and electing of the republican council and voting of confidence or no confidence for the government. It also increased the number of Al-Shora Council and restricted the Presidents power of the republic in four ways:
a) it confined most of his resolutions to the Republican Council.
b) it confined all the resolutions and agreements to Al-Shora Council.
c) it confined all appointments to suggestions of the concerned authorities.
d) it confined all decrees issued by the Republican Council to be approved by the Prime Minister and the minister specified for signing.
The second half of 1970s witnessed a severe decline in limitation of autocracy. The Movement of 13th June 1974 abolished Al-Shora Council and The Presidency Council and replaced them with a military command called Command Council and suspended the constitution. During Al-Hamdis reign a new kind of peoples participation movements were invented, most of which consisted of the following:
1- The Cooperation Movement which had large and positive contributions in the social development.
2- The Reform Committees that took part in financial and administrative reforms.
3-The Local Councils that were granted limited authorities in the local administration.
The Southern governorates were no better than the Northern ones. After the withdrawal of the British colonizers, on the independence day of 30th November 1967 the National Front declared itself as the sole political party which had the right of government. It executed its opponents to monopolize power to itself. When it achieved that, the pressure groups within the party became engaged in political in-fighting to grab power. The fight to take power and going back to autocracy remained the prominent feature of the regime in Sanaa and Aden.
After declaration of the Unified Yemen on 22nd May 1990, a joint constitutional committee was formed from the then two parts of the country. It issued the constitution of the Unified Yemen after it had been endorsed by both parliaments of the two former parts. Referendum on this constitution took place in February 1991.
The Islah party was engaged in a battle against some political forces opposing the new constitution as it contained articles that contradicted with the Islamic law. However, that had no impact and referendum on the constitution took place on 16th May 1991, continued and people gave their consent to it.
The transitional period witnessed crucial conflicts between the political forces represented by the GCP and the YSP. Those conflicts were over by drawing a new pledge ending the difference caused after the unification. That pledge was called the Oath and Agreement Pledge. On the other hand, this pledge was not abided by and war broke out in the summer of 1994.
After the war, the constitution was amended. The Presidential Council was cancelled and the President of the Republic replaced it with better and greater constitutional and practical authorities.
The amendment made the referendum obliged to amend any article of the constitution.
On 19 August 2000 the President referred a letter to the Parliament that called for making some constitutional amendments to 14 articles.
On 19 November 2000 the Parliament endorsed the amendments suggested by the President along with one article suggested by members of the Parliament. The article related to extension of the Presidency term to 7 years instead of 4 years.
The draft law of the constitutional amendments included the extension of the term of Parliament to 6 years starting from the date of its first session with the provision that the two-year term of the present parliament remains in force. This amendment was endorsed. The reconstruction of Al-Shora Council, appointed by the President of the republic, and the Parliament both sharing the same authorities was also endorsed. The draft law granted the President the right to dissolve the parliament necessitating peoples referendum except for the first and second chapters of the constitution.
The Parliament resolution issued on 20 November 2000 included the content of the endorsed amendments. Debate on the referendum on the constitutional amendments began on 20th February 2001. However, necessary steps and procedures for that have not been initiated so far.

Ryah Al-Tagyeer In Yemen
Al-Remal Al-Mutaharekah
Al-Shora Newspaper issue No. 337
26-September Newspaper issues No. 935, 932 and 934
Okadh Newspaper issue No. 12512 Nasr Taha Mustafas article The Constitutional Amendments and the Permanent Crises