The way Yemen’s democracy is supported [Archives:2007/1111/Opinion]

December 13 2007

By: Dr.Abdullah Al-Faqih
The National Democratic Institute that has been working in Yemen fore many years reserved its report on Yemen's last year presidential and local council elections for nearly seven months. It has not released its report until it was April 2007 and that came one month before President Ali Abdullah Saleh's visit to the United States.

Through this report, it has been made clear that NDI has nothing to do with elections and democracy or the likes, the meanings of which become distinctive according to the nature of U.S. interests in any country. Such a report appeared to be politicized, particularly as it said in its opening sentence that “We think that Yemen's presidential and local elections, which took place on September 20, 2006, is a crucial step toward democracy in the country. Such elections can be described as democratic and competitive.” Then the report proudly continues to say, “As soon as the Yemeni Parliament approved the final list of presidential candidates, it has been apparent that Joint Meeting Parties gave a practical answer to a very big question that had been evolving in Yemen's public opinion for several months. The question was about the possibility of having a real contender to President Saleh in the race toward the highest political post in the country.

Resembling Powel's Report on Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, the NDI's report added that “The tense relation between Opposition Parties and Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum had a negative impact on the elections, thereby delaying the electoral processes for more than one time. And, as SCER didn't give electronic copies of voter registers made in 2002, as well as the registers modified in 2006, in a way substantiating suspicions of the opposition and the international community that the registers contain some faults in favor of the ruling party, this helped the relations become sharper, thus leading to a failure in implementing terms of the Agreement of Principles, reached by General People Congress and JMP on June 18. This agreement was endorsed by the Executive Authority with the aim of resolving any noticeable differences.

There have been high concerns and fears during the time period ahead of the elections that opposition parties would not name their candidates for election management committees, like what happened during the review and modification of voter registers in 2007. Also, there have been fears that the opposition parties may boycott the elections.

Despite the fact that SCER is primarily responsible for any faults and violations, which accompanied the electoral process, the opposition should have calmed its sharp address against SCER. The NDI's report on Yemen's most recent elections reminds its reader of Bush's Administration decision to invade Iraq first and then search for the reasons behind the invasion. It also reminds the reader of Bush's Administration charges against those opposing the stupid war decision, accusing them of being unpatriotic and allies with terrorists. Meanwhile, the advice given by Bush's administration to Yemeni opposition concerning SCER is merely a reflection of the lack of prudence, which Bush's Administration and its collaborators are famous for.

According to the report, “Since the local elections in 2001, there has been a great change in the political relations between Yemen's political parties. It is for the first time to see the major opposition parties are not engaged in negotiations with the ruling party ahead of the elections about settling some electoral issues before they occur.” The report considered this a positive indicator of a serious opposition to demonstrate strong competition at the elections.

“Prior to 2003 parliamentary elections, seven opposition parties, including Islah and YSP, made up a coalition under the name of JMP. This coalition remained rigid duringt 2003 elections until now,” said the report. The reader is required to understand that the report consider dialogues between ruling party and other major opposition parties before 2001 local council elections a national achievement. The report did not say that the killing of tens of people during that election is a national achievement.

Wonders of the NDI's report have no limit. When the reader believes that the report has already closed the file of conflicts between SCER and opposition parties, he/she will be shocked to see the report discussing the same issue once again. The way the report is written reminds readers of the former Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a Nabeel Khoury who completed his assignment in Yemen a few months ago. Khoury confused many observers who did not know whether he is a deputy chief of mission at the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, a deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy here in Sana'a or a representative of the Pope.

Those who prepared the NDI's report seem to have forgotten the efforts exercised by the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), specialized in electoral affairs, its lengthy reports and the agreed-upon recommendations, which the ruler left in the drawers.

Part of the report concerned with SCER has reminded people of the behavior of Mr. Abdu Al-Janadi, SCER member. This part reads, “The electoral process was managed in a relatively good manner, however, SCER's performance in preparing and organizing the elections was better than its performance in the area of preventing and correcting violations that occurred during the implementation process.

NDI knows more:

In the part devoted to the election results, the report celebrates the GPC landslide victory in the elections by saying, “Regarding the local council elections, GPC won 85 percent of the seats at the governorate level and 79 percent of the seats at the district level while Islah, which is the strongest opposition party in Yemen, obtained only 7 percent of the governorate seats and 12 percent of the district seats and YSP got only 2 percent of the seats at the governorate level and 3 percent at the district level. The result is totally different from that of 2001 election when GPC got 58.5 percent of the governorate seats and 85.6 percent of the district seats. In that election, the Islah party won 20.4 of the seats at the governorate level and 23.3 percent at the district level while YPS obtained 3.8 and 3.2 percent of the local council seats in the governorates and districts respectively.”

In order not to raise questions about integrity of the elections and NDI, the report gave a scientific reason to such a democratic victory, attributing the low number of votes obtained by Islah and YPS to the inadequate use of resources, as well as the lack of training and organization for their local council candidates. It did not indicate that the election system in Yemen hinders win of opposition candidates.

The author is an activist, analyst, and professor of politics at Sana'a University. He welcomes comments by email to: [email protected]

Source: Elaf Weekly.