Yemeni Parliament’s dilemma [Archives:2007/1034/Viewpoint]

March 19 2007

The Yemeni Parliament is the state's legislative power deciding the nation's laws and general policies. Parliament approves the national budget and development plans and is considered a monitoring body upon the state's implementing agencies. Most importantly, Parliament is the official representation of the people, playing an intermediate role between the public and the ruling system.

The Yemeni Parliament consists of 301 members representing 101 centers around the republic, with each center or unit representing an equal number of citizens in the nation's 21 governorates. The most recent elections took place in Yemen in 2003, to be followed six years later by the next round of parliamentary elections in 2009.

Members of Parliament are divided into 19 committees dedicated to issues like planning, human rights, investment, etc. They also represent Yemeni political parties by their division into various blocs representing those political parties that won seats during parliamentary elections.

Considering this, an MP simultaneously represents a geographical location, a political affiliation and a professional discipline. If any two of these three associations contradict each other or a conflict of interest arises, then the MP's integrity and credibility comes into question.

The current situation in Yemen is that two-thirds of Parliament represent the ruling party, the General People's Congress, so technically, this is the largest political bloc and as such, easily able to endorse legislation or overrule others. Many members of the bloc head important committees such as the oil and minerals committee, which oversees issues in the oil sector.

Last year, a remarkable thing happened in Parliament – MPs stopped the passage of legislation to reduce oil subsidies, although the ruling party, Parliament's majority of seat-holders, forwarded it. This meant that MPs stood up against their party's desire and played their other role as the people's representatives.

It was a long-awaited moment and one which democracy and freedom activities in Yemen hope will be further repeated in the future. But just when we get our hopes raised, a report comes from Parliament administration conveying that many MPs attended less than 50 percent of sessions last year. How can we count on such people who don't have the commitment to even be there, let alone fight for our causes?

Some MPs made a statement by resigning their posts and announcing that the Yemeni Parliament is only a mockery of the democratic process.

The Yemeni Parliament's future definitely lies in the hands of MPs, who now must begin realizing their role and slowly taking responsibility in deciding our nation's future. In this regard, the parliamentary committee dedicated to fighting government corruption is a good start and we've heard that Parliament will question officials and authoritative personalities. This is one good point the Yemeni Parliament has scored recently and I hope there will be many more to come.