Yemen’s democracy:Orchestrated free will [Archives:2006/958/Opinion]

June 26 2006

By: Hassan Al-Haifi
Mahmoud: There you have it, the people got Ali Abdullah Saleh to change his mind about leaving the office of the Presidency.

Someone sitting next to him in the minibus paid no attention to his neighbor's political prognosis.

Mahmoud repeated his political observation hoping to generate feedback from the other passengers or even the driver, at the same time adding: I was there in the Seventies Square and you should have seen how much the people were exhilarated to hear of the President's surrendering to their will.

Finally a passenger in the back said something: “The games people play never cease to amuse me. Should so much energy be spent on simply trying to get the President to change his mind about leaving the office. Surely there could have been much less expensive and much more genuine methods of expression of opinion. Why not just flood his office with emails, faxes and cables?”

Another passenger said: “That is not going to make anybody any money. A lot of people have harnessed all their energy to get all these people to scream and shout they want no one but Ali Abdullah Saleh for President. Mind you, these people did not do this for the love of Ali, but for the love of their pockets “

Mahmoud wanted to impress upon the other passengers the gist of democratic practice: Look you, you just think that what ever any politicians do, is just for money. “No these people really want Ali Abdullah Saleh to continue.”

The back seat passenger said: “That is not what is at stake for them, what is at stake for them are their vested interests. Thus they work night and day in finding ways to direct the will of the people to suit their political arithmetic in ways that are bound to mean an extra riyal here and there.”

Mahmoud did not enjoy that viewpoint: “Do you think so many thousands of people can be manipulated to express their opinion so easily?”

His neighbor now said something: “Look, even in the world's best democracies the will of the people can easily be manipulated without any hassles. How do you think President George W. Bush managed to keep his seat, when he has carried out so many blunders in his first term of office? Only there they do it in a more scientific manner and with less of a strain on the dignity of the constituencies they presumably lead.”

Again, Mahmoud wanted to insure that his listeners don't buy such garbage: “Look pal, are you insinuating that the Yemeni people allow themselves to be goaded to the whims of political opportunists? So many Yemenis gave their lives to achieve the progress we have made in political democracy and here you are turning all the democratic practices you have seen over the last few days into a mockery.”

His neighbor was not easily disturbed by Mahmoud's comment: “Look pal, I know you are part of this wonderful staged performance. I have no doubts about the President's sincerity in wanting to continue serving his country, but he is going to have to stop these people around him from staging such exaggerated coached performances of expression of free will. As far as I see it the people will have all the opportunity they need to express their opinion on election day and their ballot will be the only thing that will count, so why all the fanfare?”

The back seat passenger tended to agree with Mahmoud's neighbor: “You are not going to add any more to our persuasion as to who we shall vote for on Election Day. Given the right free and honest democratic voting process we have been promised to see on Election Day, the people will hopefully declare their own decisions without coaching from any of the political machines that tend to play with our emotions and forcing us to say what may not be truly in our hearts. There is enough in our circumstances that will tell us how to decide who is best for leading the country, if that vote is truly counted properly and honestly. This is one thing you will not be able to extract from me now or anytime until you hear of the vote count. But do not worry, you have earned your measly per diem allowance, for your concerted efforts to try to direct our will. If you want I will testify to that on your behalf, but not by my vote.”