The Government & The Islah [Archives:2001/17/Law & Diplomacy]

April 23 2001

By: Mohammed Assabri
The last week witnessed two new viewpoints about the attitude of the new government towards the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (Islah Party). “There is no reasonable justification for maintaining two educational systems in Yemen,” said President Saleh while presiding over the first meeting of the newly formed government. He assigned the Minister of Education, Dr. Fadhl Abu Ghanem to further explore this point. As for mosque preachers, the Minister of Endowment has to be close to what they preach to the public. It is a difficult task as the new Minister of Endowment’s degree (B.A. in Commerce) does not agree with his position as a minister of religious guidance.
President Saleh also spoke about his vision for the coming parliamentary and local elections scheduled for April 2003. He said “The Supreme Election Committee (SEC), which will monitor the election process, will be independent, constituted by the president and no membership will be given to any other parties.” This new development was not known in the previous elections where the President always involved the other parties in the SEC. These issues, which were highlighted by the President in his first meeting with the new government, has triggered a new political thinking. The most important point of which is the position accorded to the Islah party in the policy of the new government. It is, anticipated that the days to come may witness heated political contests and conflicts between the ruling party and the biggest opposition party.
The first view point of some politicians and political leaders is, whatever conflicts and differences occur between the two parties, that the reconciliation channels between them are wider than any possible misunderstanding or problems. This group of intellectuals are basing their opinion on previous experiences during the last decade, in which Islah appeared on many occasions as an ally. Some observers believe that the issue of the scientific institutes controlled by the Islah is no longer of interest to Islah. A good number of the Islah elements also believe that the institutes are no longer controlled by their party, and that many of them have not been able to register their children in any of these institutes, which graduate more than 3000 students every year. One section has the opinion that there are still many open channels of communication between President Saleh and Islah. These channels represent unified positions and a political coalition to some extent. Most important among these channels are Sheikh Al-Ahmar at the top of the Islah, Mohammed Al-Yadomi and Abdulwahhab Al-Aanisi in the General Secretariat. They point out that whatever resentment Islah shows towards the GPC’s policy, it will, in the long run, surrender to what the President wishes.
The counter opinion relies on a number of indicators which prove that there will be fields of conflict between the GPC and Islah. Some of these indicators relate to the violence and confrontations which took place before and during the local council elections on February 20, 2001. The President expressed concern in his speech about Islah’s possession of heavy weapons which the latter won during the civil war. He also referred to the issue of terrorism confirming that he would deal with it with an iron hand. Another indicator is the complexity and great human and financial resources Islah is enjoys. The number of votes it polled in the last local council elections revealed that its supporters are steadily rising. In the context of continued administrative corruption, increase in the public condemnation of the GPC government and the anti-Islah attitude of the new government, the political conflict and hostility between the GPC and Islah is bound to mount. And it seems likely that the lack of trust will increase in the near future.
The coming elections may be marked by a long, heated conflict. Indicators of this conflict are beginning to appear. February and next August will witness the first debate on the issue concerning the formation of the SEC with qualified and unpartial elements. If this is not achieved, boycotting the elections will be the beginning of the political crisis.