The Parliament Goofed! [Archives:1999/30/Viewpoint]

July 26 1999

“Total disappointment!”. That is what comes to mind after the latest presidential nomination proceedings in the parliament. Parliament, which is supposed to be the defender of democracy and free speech, has unfortunately turned out to be the opposite. Indeed, the institution, which is supposed to open the way for free and honest competition for all who wish to join in the presidential race has shut the doors closed. It was not a good sign for instilling the democratic process in Yemen. Among all the approximately 30 people who applied to compete against the current President, only one was given the chance to be a candidate: Najeeb Al-Shaabi, who is a well-known PGC permanent committee member, thus he could not be regarded as a real opposing candidate. In other words, this move has killed competition, and will result in a boring 1999 presidential elections with no real competition whatsoever. 
There was no reason for the parliament to act in such a way. On the contrary, one would expect that the Parliament would act responsibly by allowing more than one real nominees to take part in this great historical event. But by its action, the Parliament only made the democratic transformation harder. In my point of view, the President of the Republic himself – who was out of the country, at the time – would not appreciate this move, at least for the sake of not turning the elections into a referendum. In issues that concern the nation as a whole, the members of Parliament should think of the interests of the public before their own interests and the interests of their respective parties. Disappointment among citizens, politicians, intellectuals, and most Yemenis has been visibly evident after the rejection of thee 28 candidates for the Presidency by Parliament. It was a pity that the country had to lose such an opportunity to see real democratic competition for the most important government executive office. The 10% prerequisite endorsement of the Parliament for any candidate had a negative impact on the elections. It limited the ability of the nation to decide for itself directly. It clearly gives a bigger chance for the ruling authorities to manipulate the course of the elections. It definitely limits the people’s choice. The parliament should have let the people of the country decide directly among all 30 candidates, instead of limiting their choice to only two, if they all qualified to meet the criteria set by the Constitution, for the position. 
I hope that this 10% required percentage would be lifted and not be used in the forthcoming elections. We should be fair to all, no matter what their political persuasion is. If we don’t want our system to be a dictatorship just wearing the suit of democracy, then this prerequisite should be cancelled. 
In the end, how shall we proceed? Will Najeeb Qahtan be given an opportunity to prove himself a real opposition candidate? In order to prove to the people that these elections are not just theatrics, we should expect that Najeeb Al-Shaabi will be given the equal resources, time on the media and the other tools that will enable him to prove that he is more than just a puppet candidate.  Walid Al-Saqqaf                    Publisher & Editor-in-Chief