War on Iraq in coming elections:Card to be played by opposition [Archives:2003/631/Front Page]

April 14 2003

Yemen Times Staff
SANAA-Recent developments of the war on Iraq have raised the probability of its being a major issue to be dealt with and used or abused by different political parties in the coming parliamentary elections scheduled for April 27.
Yemeni voters have shown little interest in recent statements by the Supreme Committee for Elections and Referendum (SCER).
Even though election-related activities of political parties have been somewhat slowed down by the ongoing war on Iraq, it is believed that many of those political parties would use the issue of the war on Iraq as a card in gaining voter confidence. It is known that most Yemenis reject the war on Iraq and have called upon the government to implement stiff measures against the USA and the UK to pressurize them to stop the war.
According to the SCER, the number of registered Yemeni voters has reached a national record of 8 million.
The anti-war sentiment overcomes the electoral interest among the population entitlement as people and parties are busy organizing demonstrations and sits-in as tensions between the authorities and opposition parties reached its peak during the war.
Some candidates have already started using the war on Iraq to gain votes by using their party's mouthpiece newspapers. “What is happening in Iraq threatens the whole Arab world. The consequences of this war will harm national security and political future of the country along with all other Arab countries. It will only serve Israel's interests and security.” Is one of the anti-war statements published in al-Wahdawi opposition newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Nasserite Unionist party.
There are currently only 1,656 registered candidates for elections. This is much lower than those of 1993 (3,181) and 1997 (2,115).
Female candidates in the 1993 and 1997 elections were 41 and 19 respectively, while in this year's elections they are only 13, signaling a disappointment for supporters of wider female participation in Yemen's future parliament.
Some analysts believe that the war on Iraq will favor religious and anti-war parties over the rest. In other words, the more anti-war a party is, the more voices it could get.
However, the war had diverted the attention of a large segment of the community from the parliamentary election and Yemen's democratic experience. Thus, the number of candidates for elections dropped significantly, especially for female candidates who were supported furiously by a large number of NGOs and international organizations.
The war on Iraq may not have sabotaged the Yemeni elections, but it certainly weakened it in various ways, including reducing the number of potential candidates and voters. But nevertheless, the war could also serve those opposition candidates who wish to use it as an element to gain voters' support, especially as many citizens are disappointed by the economic performance of the current GPC government.
They expect that the percentage of voters will dwindle in the coming elections even if the war ends with a victory for the US-UK coalition, especially as it will take some time to overcome the miseries and humanitarian disaster the Iraqis went through during this war.