U.S. stance on democracy’s future in Yemen [Archives:2006/912/Opinion]

January 16 2006

Abdulhay Ali Qasim
Does the United States deal with Yemeni democracy with the same vision and selectivity in its international dealings of the past few years? Will the U.S. Administration's stance toward any infringements expected in Yemen's upcoming presidential elections be of passive neutrality to let these regimes make their decisions according to their wills? Will the U.S. Administration not react or exert pressure during such a democratic process due to claims of integrity?

One can say that the U.S. has a specialized agenda, insisting on its success similar to what has happened in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries.

The U.S. Administration's initiatives and statements about spreading democracy provoke sharp controversy regarding its earnestness and credibility. Democracy does not face any opposition from different countries and populations that were and still are aspiring to establish democracy as a great value to their political systems.

The sponsor of democracy and the first holder of the flag of freedom in the world has begun to face great opposition in the shadow of the mounting wave of suspicion about the U.S. Administration and its policies. Washington's latest stance toward Palestinian democracy and its selective vision reveals the kind of democratic vision Washington promotes. With a majority of 397 votes, the U.S. Congress approved a wrong policy threatening to half its financial assistance to Palestine if the latter allowed the Hamas Movement to take part in parliamentary elections. Congressional voters claim that Hamas's participation will expose U.S.-Palestinian relations to danger.

In the same manner was U.S. stance toward Egyptian democracy, as selectivity was obvious. It warned against violating democracy and human rights supported by some organizations. Thus, the third phase of Egyptian parliamentary elections proved them right. The arrest campaigns preventing people from voting, buying votes, beatings and attacks against opposition leaders were all infringements and violations against Washington-sponsored democracy.

After several advocacies by human rights organizations regarding the critical circumstances, Washington showed its concern.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which led to intensified security measures justified by a war on terror, combating terrorism topped other priorities, such as democracy and human rights, in the U.S. agenda.

At the beginning of Bush's second presidential term, U.S. policy changed and oppression became the target, however the means of relief was through spreading freedom.

The fundamental issue which the U.S. Administration views and tends to constitute as a threat to U.S. security is not terrorism, rather it is oppression. The political elimination and economic marginalization to which Arab and Yemeni citizens are subjected is fertile soil for the growth of terrorism. Therefore, the situation stipulates a change of means and tactics to fight such an oppressive disease. It is of primary value to treat the disease itself.

Statements by the U.S. Ambassador to Yemen about Yemeni democracy noted that the democratic progress has stopped; based on the allegation that Yemeni democracy has no fundamental meaning. Constitutional texts specifying ways to reach out to U.S. authority and administration were merely routine procedures for attaching legitimacy to power.

Reactions from different parties to Ambassador Krajeski's statement compelled him to recant, alleging that he intended to say that Yemen's democracy is progressing slowly.

After President Saleh's latest visit to Washington, the U.S. stance appeared very clear in another interview with Krajeski published by Al-Wasat newspaper. The ambassador explained democracy's difficult process and said he did not expect each country to have democracy in a month's or a year's time. He forgot that Yemen has been struggling to achieve real democracy for 15 years.

Based on the above statement, one can infer that President Saleh and his regime exchange numerous papers with Washington. The entire response of the Yemeni government toward security cooperation and coordination in fighting terrorism, its pledge to control arms bearing, eradicate corruption and stop arresting and imprisoning journalists, causes the U.S. Administration to register its stance on acclimating with oppression.

Krajeski's statement confirms that the U.S. responded to and praised the responses of these regimes and that Washington must accept what is possible and easy from among political reforms which do not threaten the security and stability of their countries. Public interest stems from reforms based on well-studied steps. The presence of troops is better than handing power to Muslims. But the reality is the opposite of what these regimes believe, along with their supporters, and testimonies about this are numerous. So, regimes that rule their populations with iron and fire are responsible for terrorism which threatens their security and stability.

The U.S. Administration has to know that presidential elections differ from parliamentary ones, based on the fact that political regimes in the Arab region, including Yemen, accept only a limited margin for maneuvering in any parliamentary elections.

However, the matter is different for presidential elections, as the democratic margin can be absent, and barriers and accusations emerge about any individual or party planning to compete with the ruler.

If the U.S. really wants our friendship and restoration of what has been lost, it should stand by us to achieve more radical reforms and exert extensive effort to get rid of charges of a planned coup against democracy.