Visible Growth in Our Parliament [Archives:1998/27/Viewpoint]

June 6 1998

No one will deny that parliament is one of the main pillars of a democracy and that it plays a vital role in a modern state. In fact, many would go to the extent of defining the degree of a working democracy in any nation by the role and vibrance of its parliament.
The Republic of Yemen has had a parliament since its birth. It is interesting to note that the first parliament was more or less hand-picked by the politicians. The second parliament was elected in April 1993. Then came the third parliament, elected in April 1997. Most Yemenis are generally not satisfied with the performance of the representatives of the people, as they feel they do not have much clout. But for the deputies to snatch more clout from an entrenched political structure, deeply rooted in the military, would take some doing, and some time.
Over the last few weeks, however, something interesting happened. I can point to three specific events which point to the visible growth of our parliament, and which show that our representatives are moving in the right direction:
a) Standing for the People:
When the Government decided to remove some subsidies to correct price distortions, which I feel was necessary, there were riots and demonstrations. The parliament reacted in the right way by starting a hearing on the whole affair. In the process, and the first time in the history of Yemen, parliament stood as an equal to the government. In spite of the best efforts of Dr. Abdul-Karim Al-Iryani, the prime minister, it was clear that parliament was not ready to be cowed under.
b) Islah Breaks Away:
The Congregation for Reform Party (Islah) is an opposition party, in that it is not part of the government. But it has not been behaving, in the past, as an opposition party. Now, last week, that has changed. The Islah is now taking positions that are in line with its role as an opposition – i.e., contrary to the wishes of the ruling party and its government. The Islah now openly declares that it is out to oust the ruling party’s government. This is legitimate, and they shouldn’t feel peevish about it.
c) PGC MPs Want to Be Partners:
On Thursday, July 2nd, 1998, the People’s General Congress deputies were summoned by the president of the party, who is also president of the republic. President Saleh asked the MPs to support the government and warned that PGC deputies should fall in line. The last thing he expected was for the MPs to tell him to get lost. The PGC MPs demanded they wanted to be full partners, and that the politicians must learn to involve them in decision-making. It was a water-shed. The MPs have grown.
These developments are the true signs of a multi-polar power structure, which is the basic format of a democracy. No one person or group should control everything and exercise overwhelming power over everything. The growth of our parliament needs the support of pro-democracy Yemenis.
Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz AL-SAQQAF
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher