Time for Change [Archives:1999/38/Focus]

September 20 1999

By: Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi,
Managing Editor, Yemen Times

According to my humble knowledge, change in any aspect of life can not take place overnight. Rather, it runs slowly and gradually. In addition, change does not take place at all times. Of course, there are specific and suitable times for change to be streamlined and introduced into the life of any society. In other words, it is not any time fitting for change. Let me give you an example. Any political system that has been for a long time entirely totalitarian or dictatorial can never become democratic overnight. To make it easy, it would have been very difficult for any of the two political regimes existing in Yemen in the pre-unification era, prior to 1990 to declare that it has become democratic. This is because people would not have believed that this quick transition could occur without any reason to make them easily and reasonably accept this change. The Yemeni unification was a sufficient and rationally accepted cause for change to take place. People of Yemen felt that the event would signal a new flourishing era in the history of Yemen. Accordingly, they wholeheartedly and very positively interacted with the democratic transition. Moreover, they were very optimistic that a silver lining was to be seen in the sky. Therefore, the time was very much reasonable for the remedy of the ever perverted social, political and economic structure of the society. Efforts have been exerted to do so. However, none of them could hit the nail on the head. Seriousness of the part of the unified political fabrics was not there. To the contrary, they embroiled themselves into a tumult of conflict which made us escape that golden opportunity for change. The other chance we did not grasp is the civil war of 1994. People after the war were with high spirit to embrace any radical change that could breathe a new life to the Yemeni society.
Now, the chance is in our hands and we should not escape it once again. Do you know what it is? It is the current presidential election. In spite of the fact that this election lacks a real healthy competitive sense and context, it is rather a very important event in the history of democracy in this country. People of Yemen will for the first time choose their president through direct voting. It is good because it will lay the foundation for a democratic practice that will live long no matter who will win. I believe we can not be democratic so quickly but I think this process will take time so as to yield fruitful outcome in the future. That is, the democratic transition in our country will without any doubt face a lot of problems and ordeals. The most important thing is that, however, we should go ahead. We should enhance democracy in Yemen by leaning to democratic norms and behavior.
I believe the opposition parties have to fend off repeating the same mistake of not participating in the parliamentary elections. They have to show they are present in the political life of our society not only in newspapers. They have to enlarge heir membership and embrace the interests of the people so that they get involved in the issues adopted by the opposition. I know that these parties are crippled with many difficulties and pitfalls. But they get unified with each other and agree on a platform, they will not be able to compete the ruling party.
Well, the result of the election is already known that Ali Abdullah Saleh will hit the first place because he is seen by many people as the man of the time and also because he has no real competitor. Therefore, it is time that he launched a radical change and fight against corruption which make him recommend the love of all. I believe this is a time-tested challenge for him. He has a lot of institutions that have to be modernized and mopped up of the crooked and corrupt officials. Fighting against corruption should be his primary concern. He has also to introduce a new life to the perverted and corrupt judicial system. The question of lawlessness and security mess is to be of the vital issues that have to be healed. Above all, the issue of political reconciliation is to be reviewed. These issues in addition to many others are the main headache of the country. Therefore, I do keep my fingers crossed that the president will be able to overcome them all and introduce a radical change into the life of our society. Amine!