Upcoming presidential elections determine Yemen’s next political course [Archives:2006/971/Opinion]

August 10 2006

Mustafa Rajeh
With the Yemeni parliament approval of the list of candidates for presidential elections begins the final chapter of what will determine the form and course of the political life for the next seven years. The real competition in these elections is going to be between the two parties of the Yemeni political system. The ruling elite, represented by president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the opposition parties grouped in the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), represented by candidate Faisal Bin Shamlan. There are three other candidates, but each has a role created by the leading two parties.

Candidate Yassin Abdeh Saeed represents forces called the reproduced parties that have been licensed by the authority to split the opposition and disrupt its movement. His choice came because of similarity of his name with Dr. Yassin Saeed Nouman, a leading opposition personality and is meant to confuse the campaign of the opposition candidate Bin Shamlan among constituencies where the majority suffers from ignorance and illiteracy. The candidate Ahmed al-Majeedi is meant to serve interest of the ruling party and its candidate. He is from the YSP and had previously assumed a post of a Governorate Governor after the Yemeni unity. His nomination gives the impression that there is division in the bloc supporting the YSP and to confuse the Bin Shamlan campaign. However those two candidates cannot affect the campaign of the opposition nominee.

The fifth candidate is part of the tactics of the JMP and meant for supporting the campaign of Bin Shamlan with an estimated YR 25 million in addition to his representative in the committees overseeing procedures of voting and vote counting.

These elections are held under political scrutiny, the first of their kind in Yemen. This year's election is unlike 1999 when a nominal candidate, Dr Najib Qahtan, competed with the current president. Now there is presently a large opposition alignment including the southern socialists and the Islamic Islah party, a longtime ally of president Saleh.

Moreover the independent candidate Bin Shamlan also enjoys support from outside the alliance that has selected him to represent it in the election.

The ruling party is active nowadays and some observers commented on the situation by describing it as “the opposition party” and this is attributed to fears of the ruling elite that many and various factors could gather and act in favor of the opposition candidate.

The upcoming presidential elections are dominated by the political stamp, unlike the parliamentary elections that are prevailed by the social characteristic and influence of tribal and personal relations in the regions and villages.

So the elections of Sept. 20 will be like a referendum dividing the voters into two groups. One group supports the existing situation with followers casting their votes for the current president to continue to rule for another seven years. The followers of the second group are those who oppose the policy of the president and the ruling elite. They find that the present situation does not represent them or express their interests and aspirations. Those will choose the candidate Faisal Bin Shamlan. That is the choice.

Mustafa Rajeh is a Yemeni journalist and human rights activist.