The elections farce [Archives:2006/953/Opinion]

June 8 2006

By: Abdulbari Taher
Several months ago, president Saleh stirred an apparently stagnant political pool by throwing in the stone of that refrains from running the elections. The stone churned up the pool's real disarrayed depth.

President Saleh's announcement was not taken seriously. His ruling party the General People Congress GPC seemed to have fully comprehended the message by refusing to deal with the announcement. Yet, they sought to mobilize public pressure to force the president to retreat. The political opposition represented by the Joint Meeting Party JMP, however, sought in a wicked manner to provoke the president to keep his word. On the other hand. the majority of the people were at a loss between the stance of the ruling party and the opposition. They were sinking in the worries of their suffocating crises of diminishing daily in addition to rampant unemployment and poverty that reaches the edges of famine.

Yemeni elections hardly have any significance save its ability to keep Yemenis away from wars. Yemeni history is full of wars, especially the recent 'red ones'. The Yemeni elections are to a far extent pretentious. They are almost an allegiance.

Most of Yemeni people are registered in voters' lists which contain several hundred thousands repeated names and and the names of minors. The ten million voters are registered in a population that doesn't exceed twenty million, where 57% are minors and three million are expatriates. The supreme election committee is an ancillary of the ruling party and is obeying their unfair willpower.

Despite presidential elections being only three months away, the ruling party and the State insist on having elections under the supervision of a biased election committee using an illegal voters' list. This indicates an intended extortion of authority through false and undemocratic elections.

Since the opposition is reluctant to present a concurent presidential candidate, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ahmar, the Islah leader, hints he is not in the least interested in these elections. He has declared his interest is limited to local councils' elections only. A declaration implying the sheikh is offering a barter for additional seats in the local elections and consequently the parliamentary elections. This is especially explained by the sheikh's interest in continuing the tribal-military coalition. When asked about the president's nomination in an interview in Al- Jazeera channel, Sheikh Al-Ahmar announced, “A devil you know is better than a human you do not know,” which is commonly understood by Yemenis that accepting the worst you know, is better than the best that you do not know. However, the Islah leader has an option of compromise while the JMP seems deprived of all options.

Then there is the additional plight as both the Islah and the ruling authority air threats laced with. As the President declared “that the sleeping serpent has been turned loose”, Sheikh Hamid Al-Ahmar, (Sheikh Abdullah's son), and an Islah member were calling for a public revolution. Have we reached the point where remaining in power is impossible without violence? Is the use of force the only way for the ruler to show legitimacy? Do those who demand their share of the cake have any other option than to resort to war games in which both sides are skilful?

Confining the crisis to the presidential and local elections does not present a clear picture of social dilemmas in Yemen. The ailments are not restricted to a lack of fair elections. It has other comprehensive diseases realized in the monopoly of power excercised executive authorities that are ultimately focused in the hands of the president. The dependent and unskilled corrupt judiciary system also reflects this. The parliament is an extension of the executive authority. There are no clear separations of the powers. They are all tangled in corruption. However, the clash among the influential ruling parties is one sided where among them and the powerful opposition the conflict is over interests. It is a struggle for redistribution of everything, including the 'sick man's' legacy.

Abdulbari Taher is a Yemeni Journalist and the former chairman of Yemeni Journalists' Syndicate