Will Iraq war postpone April 27 vote? Election woes [Archives:2003/09/Front Page]

February 3 2003

Elections scheduled for April 27 in Yemen appear as shaky as ever.
While recent splits among the opposition have appeared, the question is also now being asked if the parliamentary elections may be postponed due to a U.S. led war on Iraq.
Ali Al Sarari, writer and political analyst, said: If war breaks out in Iraq it would not end there.”
Al Sarari told the Gulf News recently that a political crisis in Yemen will be the result of elections that are adjourned.
“The situation will be so difficult that the parliamentary elections might be postponed. The authorities will use the war as a strong pretext saying that the circumstances are not suitable for conducting general elections which will lead to a political crisis,” he added.
Mohammed Al Ghabri, an academic researcher, said a war’s impact will vary from country to country. But he insisted that the elections must take place on time even if war breaks out.
“There are some people in power who are deeply worried about the elections and they will try to find some pretext to postpone it.
Mohammed Al Sabri, university professor, said: “Yemen will definitely be affected if war breaks out; we have experienced it during the second Gulf war.”
President Ali Abdullah Saleh had called the opposition parties to focus on “national alignment.”The president’s call stresses adhering to the law, rejecting violence, a peaceful transfer of power, and national unity.
Saleh ordered the formation of a committee to formulate the “the document of national alignment and cooperation in elections”. Abdul Kareem Al Iryani, secretary general of the ruling People’s General Congress, is the head the committee.
Sheikh Abdul Majeed Al Zandani, chairman of the Islah Shura Council was appointed a member in the committee along with the assistant secretary general the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), secretary general of the Nasserite Unionist Party, and secretary general of the Baath Socialist Party.
The six main opposition parties (Islamic party, Islah, Socialist Party, Nasserite Party and three other minor parties) call themselves The Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) signed what they called “the accord of principles” to coordinating their action in the elections.
They’re trying to win seats in the parliament, and prevent the ruling party from obtaining an overwhelming majority as it did in 1993 and 1997 elections.
Dr Qassem Salam, secretary general of the Baath party said any candidate, unanimously agreed upon, will represent the JMP in his or her constituency and all efforts will directed ensure the candidate’s victory.
But the JMP could not reach an agreement on how to tackle the parliamentary elections.
Nomination of women is the first sticking point. Islah has not clear vision on women candidates. It will nominate women in this elections at least.
Mohammed Qahtan, chairman of the political circle of Islah said: “We need two years to reach a clear position on women candidates.”
The YSP, however, is determined to give women as much chances as possible to win elections. “The list of YSP candidates will include as many women as possible,” said Ali Saleh Obad, secretary general of the YSP.
The second issue is over the YSP headquarters. Islah took over some of the headquarters in southern governorates after the 1994 civil war. Now the YSP leaders in these governorates have refused to coordinate with Islah until headquarters are returned.
Moreover, the YSP has been demanding Islah to renounce the fatwas issued in 1994 by some Islah leaders.
Discord has surfaced also because all JMP parties want to retain their constituencies. But Islah won in most of the YSP constituencies in 1997 elections that were boycotted by YSP.
Also, Islah seems to have three different candidate lists – the tribal wing led by Sheikh Abdullah Al Ahmar has its own list, Muslim brotherhood led Abdul Majeed Al Zandani is preparing another list, and the political organizational wing, represented by Mohammed Al Yadoomi, secretary general, is also making a different list which includes intellectuals and highly educated people.
The Rabetat Abna Al Yaman party (RAY), minor party not represented in the parliament, has decided to boycott the elections saying it “will only be used to strengthen the non-democratic means”.
Women form 45 per cent of some 8 million voters in the April 27 elections in which 20 political parties will vie for 301 seats in parliament.