The Media and the Elections [Archives:2006/979/Opinion]

August 7 2006

A lot of people are asking, why bother to have the elections when it is already clear that it is gong to be back to the same grind mill, no matter how the ballot count goes? We argue with these people that if they do not like the same old grind mill, then why not opt for a different one, and vote for one of the other candidates for President. Whatever way people want to cast their vote, and see how the grinding goes, it is still important for Yemenis to go out on election day and vote. Inside that voting booth is no one but the voter and God Al-Mighty and it is the chance that everyone looks for to really not be under any effort to direct their choices for leaders at the top level and way down there at the municipal level. The vote for President is going to be tough, considering how much the official media is pushing itself to the brink and striving to stay neutral in this coming elections. It must be tough on them to have to do away with slandering and making sly comments about the opposition candidates, so they manage to exert all efforts to sneak in a curse there, a libel there and every sly trick in media land to render the opposition candidate a hopeless effort at the seat of the Presidency. This is to be expected after some twenty eight years of having to feed the people all kinds of lies and finger-pointing, while their side is projected as the next best thing after Gabriel and his league of angels, jotting down our deeds for that Judgment Day coming. For that matter, one is inclined to really believe that the President does not want it like that. After all, he is human and is bound to get the feeling that such outlandish misuse of the media does not fall into the category of good taste.

I do not know why the official media would rush into accusing Faisal Bin Shamlan of corruption, when all these years we have not heard the official media cry wolf at all the inept and sleazily corrupt officials that run around their circle of friends and their corruption is so obvious that the devil has declared Yemen free of all further attempts to instill deviousness, because the deviousness that already abounds in Yemen is even beyond the visions he has sought to instill in the country. But that is another story and we are now just hoping that the official media will remember what the Constitution and the Law of Elections say about staying out of the elections arena, or else give equal time to all candidates. Moreover, slandering and libeling candidates these hired pens do not like is simply out of the context of democratic conduct and is not helping the people decide favorably on the candidate that the official media is supposedly striving for. Trying to play with the issues as if they only matter now is another unusual habit that the media guards of the regime seem to enjoy reviving especially at election time. Issues like access to services, schools, electricity, crime and of course corruption all of a sudden become really important now. They become so important now that all of a sudden we realize that Yemen really has billions and billions of dollars stashed here and there and thus, we are laying the foundation stones for literally hundreds of projects. One official amusingly could not help but comment when asked to go and inaugurate the construction of a power station in one of the remote provinces of Yemen: “I could have sworn that this project has already been inaugurated 15 times and not one stone has been erected beyond the foundation stone”. On top of that, it has become important now to issue needed legal groundwork to fight corruption, so all these corruption legislation are coming out and no one asked, what took so long? Again, that is history and people are usually bored by history, so they will never keep these things in the back of their head. What is important now is to get that vote any way one can and if there has to be another project inauguration or another law, so let it be.

The poor opposition candidates have no chance to lay down the foundation stone of any project, (or issue laws) because for one thing they do not have access to the dough for financing the project or the hired pens that will be ready and claim that this is the most strategic project or law of our time. Do not forget how much money (as if they are paying it out of their pockets) all this entails, square kilometers it covers and the newest entry into this barrage of masterly claim is how many job opportunities it creates for the thousands of unemployed they have created all these years. As for the sudden appearance of honesty and moral suasion, we know this must be tough on them, because that is really out of their league.

Hassan Al-Haifi has been a Yemeni political economist and journalist for more than 20 years.