We still have a long way to go [Archives:2003/634/Opinion]

May 5 2003

Hassan Al-Haifi
Last week, the people of Yemen again went through the agonizing and sometimes deadly process of proving to our leaders that yes, we want democracy and now we want it for us and not just to make the ruling establishment look nice with the donors and the other members of the international community. Yet, the establishment will consider this to be one of their remarkable achievements, we should continue to be grateful for, notwithstanding all the negative attributes associated with government they have instilled, which we have come to “get used to”, because the regime here and there allows for some token semblance of the democratic process. We say this knowing full well, that these elections will never be a real reflection of public sentiment towards the existing fait accompli, to which we have surrendered. It is imperative to note that the majority of the common folk, who this observer talked to all indicated that they are going to the polling station to make it clear that voting should be a way of life in Yemen that should stay. They knew full well that there is bound to a lot of manipulations, maneuvering and cutthroat tactics practiced by the big parties, which have yet to institute democratic process within their organizations let alone pass it on to the general institutions that make up government. It is really time that we take the matter of democracy seriously, for it is the only way that will safeguard our independence, lest some foreign power decides to send its armed forces to impose democracy on us, as an excuse for serving their own narrow interests. More important, democracy is Islam in all its manifestations, although we find that some of those parties that wear an Islamic cloak, still feel that it is alright to define democracy and Islam to suit their own political and to a large extent material ambitions. It is time to start showing some real transparency throughout all the institutions involved in the election process, from the political parties, to the government organs overseeing the process. The fact of the matter is that had the election process went on according to real democratic process, most of those elected would not have gotten elected: The public treasury should not work for any of the political organs, ruling or opposition, not to mention the independents, who really have to confront insurmountable odds just to get their candidacy accredited, let alone put up a fight against well entrenched political machines.
Now the question arises, what is next? After all, the people have chosen people who have promised to uphold their grudges against the way things have been managed in this country. There is no question in this observer's mind that those who ran for parliament know full well what people are upset about, for they all promised to work for a change for the better. How? We do not know, but the results of the last election in some instances have shown that the really poor performers of the past were not allowed to take back their parliamentary seats. The people did not like their attitude when they were in office and their attitudes outside of office (Some of them went on to prove their failure by insisting to make chaos out of the democratic process, by attacking polling places and stealing the ballot boxes, because they could not handle their defeat in with any degree of sportsmanship. Thank God, that their communities indicated that they had enough of them!) It was regrettable that blood had to be spilled before everything was over, because of the fact that certain power brokers insist that government is theirs for the taking forever, and because they still view their power as being a right they can pass down from generation to generation. Therefore, one can easily conclude that if we can learn to overcome all the negative aspects that arose in this election, when the next elections come along, then we are on the road to fundamental developments, and the Yemeni people will have something to look forward to in the next bout. It is time that we pay attention to the development of awareness among the general population at least to let them know that democracy is their baby. At least they should know not to get fooled by those who break all their dignity by passing out food rations to them starting a couple of months before the elections. That is humiliating embezzlement and anathema to Islamic doctrine no matter how long a beard the culprits to this heinous crime have.
Six years is indeed a long time to have to wait to see our hopes come to the surface to be exploited by political activists just a few weeks before the elections and bury them once they get into their “elected” seats.