Yemen holds elections

Yemen’s elections may bring about some significant changes, with the Islamic Islah party likely to benefit in the wake of a successful US-led military invasion of Iraq and President Saleh’s inability to express Yemeni sentiments concerning American intrusive foreign policy.

Yemen’s third parliamentary elections are to be held on April 27,  the  number of candidates  has reduced significantly from the 5,000 registered in the 97 ballot. This year’s election has only 1,536 candidates, 16 of whom are women, according to the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER).

Al-Janadi, Chairman of the Information and Awareness Department at SCER, stated that election preparations had gone to plan, explaining the reduced number of candidates was due to the Iraq war and a greater number of disqualifications for breach of election regulations.

“The SCER has discovered scores of infringements by parties and individual candidates and we have taken  appropriate steps to suspend those committing violations,” said Al Janadi, warning that should breaches continue, names of parties and candidates would be made public.

The number of monitors has reached 36,000  – representing various segments of the local and international community. A SCER source said that 30,000 of the monitors represent 22 civil society organizations, while 2,209 monitors represent a number of local parties and 64 represent international organisations and institutions, including the United Nations.

Security forces are on a higher state of alert, in preparation for possible violence during the elections. The 2001 municipal elections witnessed fighting between political groups, as well as accusations of fraud.

The  national Al-Thowra newspaper said in an issue last week that a woman shot at a GPC female party member in the main committee of the 19th constituency  in the capital Sana’a, but Dr. Abdulatheem, the Chairman of the Islah Executive Office denied that the incident was a result of partisan disturbances. “It is a family-related incident and has nothing to do with the coming elections,” he said.

Yemenis guard the entrance to a Baptist mission
 hospital where three American staff were shot
dead, in Jibla

Tensions are high – anger at the US is more vocal than ever – even the Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Kurbi called for the activation of the Arab League Joint Defence pact in the days before the US-led invasion of Iraq – a pact that defines an attack against a League member as an attack against all Arab countries.

At the same time, three Yemeni journalists have been sentenced to four months imprisonment for writing articles deemed harmful to Yemeni-Saudi relations – with Yemen keen to be included in the Gulf Co-operation Council as soon as possible.

Recent events may relate for greater support for the Islah Party. The US obsession with its “War on Terror” may see the Islamic Islah party gain more than its current 63 seats, while President Saleh’s General Peoples Congress may lose some of its 224 seats. With a small US military presence in Yemen, the President has generated a lot of resentment – especially by accepting substantial funds and security expertise to act against “terrorism”.

The two largest parties GPC and Islah are no strangers to political wrangling and name calling. Islah has accused the national media of distorting Islah’s reputation, citing the GPC Al-Mithaq newspaper as equating them with Taliban.


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