Why Compete? [Archives:1999/28/Last Page]

July 12 1999

The upcoming presidential elections are important because they are the first such elections in which the president will be elected directly by the rank and file of the unified Yemen. They are also vital because they will enable the establishing of a tradition and experience that are essential for the future. If the elections are fair, they could enable Yemen to get out of its political as well as economic crisis, and it is key to further development in the country. In the final analysis, it is still very uncertain what will happen. Various local and foreign political analysts hold widely different views. Some believe it will be a great success, while others think that the elections will mean nothing. Many believe we aren’t ready for the elections. The most important thing that should have been done was to prepare the government to launch political reforms that could bring out the national harmony amongst all the political elements in the country. 
The government should conduct all the procedures necessary for the success of the elections, many of which have already been suggested by the oppositions parties, in order to ensure a fair elections. The opposition parties also suggested a constitutional amendment that would make it possible for candidates to run for the presidential elections without the need of permission from the parliament, which is controlled by the People’s General Conference (PGC) and the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (Islah). The opposition parties also asked for the neutrality of the elections committees, and objected to the use of the military forces in the elections, and unfair public media coverage. They claim that this would be unfair to their candidates. More importantly, the political reform for local elections should have been carried out prior to presidential elections, in order to enhance the local governance, a long-waited dream of the Yemeni people, and test the policies, to see if they will work on a small scale. 
According to some other political analysts, the current conditions of the country, and the nonexistence of a political reform and reconciliation will make the elections fruitless. In other words, in such conditions elections become just a convention deprived of any purpose, and they don’t yield any promising results for the future. 
On this basis, the coming elections lack all balance and credibility, for the law entails that the candidate should be accepted by the government so as to be nominated by the parliament. Or how do we explain the parliament’s recommendation for the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) candidate Mr. Ali Saleh Obad as a challenger to the president Saleh in the elections, although we know the YSP did not participate in the parliamentary elections and hence has no representatives in the house of speakers? These political analysts also apprehend that the north-and-south question will highly affect the presidential elections. The boycott of the elections by the southern-based political parties will bring dangerous dimensions into this, for there will be a message that the government has not lived up to its commitments and pledges concerning the general amnesty and national reconciliation which the government sent to the UN in July, 1994. For this reason, the government has to face the challenge and gain the majority of the votes of the people of the south. However, the competition will be unheated because there is no real challenger to the president. 
President Saleh will undoubtedly be the winner in the upcoming elections. Actually, nobody denies that he is a man of the times, but we all aspire for radical changes to take place. The serious national issues should be given top priority, and we need political reforms and balances in the power centers. People also want local governance, a fair and independent judicial system, security and other mechanisms that will help build a civil and modern society. Above all, the opposition parties ask that the candidacy for the presidential elections should be open to all figures in the society, without any exceptions or obstacles. 
By: The Political Editor