Controversy over upcoming presidential election

Published on 16 February 2012 in News
Sadeq Al-Wesabi (author), Sadeq Al-Wesabi (photographer)

Sadeq Al-Wesabi


Sadeq Al-Wesabi

Next week’s election is a cause of controversy among many Yemenis and some observers expect violence on polling day.

Next week’s election is a cause of controversy among many Yemenis and some observers expect violence on polling day.

SANA'A — Millions of Yemenis, along with the international community, are closely watching the country’s controversial presidential election, which is now less than a week away.

The election, which has provoked controversy among Yemenis, is considered by political analysts and the international community as the best solution for the country’s complicated crisis.

Ali Abu Lohoom, a pro-democracy protester in Sana'a, told the Yemen Times that he would participate to free his country from the political standoff that erupted during Yemen’s 2011 upheaval.

He talked about those people who are withholding their vote, saying, "Your voice may protect Yemen; if you abstain you will not have merit."

 While many Yemenis are enthusiastic about the election, which will officially remove Ali Abdullah Saleh from office, many political, social and revolutionary entities are boycotting the election, questioning its legality.

As well as having only one candidate, Vice President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, next week’s election requires no minimum turnout.

Mohammed Amin Al-Sharabi, an anti-regime protester from Taiz, said he was not planning on voting. "I refuse to participate in the election but also refuse to prevent other people from participating if they choose," he told the Yemen Times.

A violent reaction

The election campaign is continuing amid tensions in some Yemeni cities.

In Hadramout governorate, armed men stormed polling station on Wednesday to prevent the election from taking place. There were also unconfirmed reports of an attack on a poling station in Aden on Wednesday, while a suicide bomber died after failing to blow up an electoral center in the city on Tuesday – though there were no other casualties.

Tensions began to rise in the port city came after members of the Southern Movement declared that they would boycott the election.

Abdul-Rahman Anees, a journalist from Aden, told the Times that the city’s locals fear violence in the coming days – especially on February 21.

"I think that the polling day will witness clashes and tensions," he said. “I think it will be a bloody day.”

Anees added that publications about boycott have been distributed in the city and rallies against the election have also been held. According to Anees, there are counter calls by the Islah Party urging people to participate in the election.

The Peaceful Salvation Revolution Front, established by revolution activists with the aim of “saving” the revolution, has also called for an election boycott.

The front condemned, in statement released last Monday, what it called the "exclusionary practices of some parties in the authority that aim to abort the revolution and violate the freedom and rights of Yemenis."

It stated that the election lacks the minimum democratic standards and, with Hadi as the only candidate, deprives other Yemenis of running for presidency.

However, Farooq Al-Hakimi, a member of the Front’s preparatory committee, rejected the Front's boycott and expressed his support of the election.

"We want to avoid a constitutional vacuum and total absence of state authority," he said. “That's why I support this election.”

Al-Hakimi indicated that the election might open new prospects to gradually tackle the deteriorating situation in Yemen and provide Yemenis with fundamental services such as electricity, water, diesel, cooking gas and food.

"I hope that the election will contribute to achieving security and safety, uniting the security and army institutions to serve the homeland under legitimate national constitutional leadership," he said.

Al-Hakimi added that his participation in the election does not mean he is against the objectives of the youth who seek equality, stability, justice and prosperity.

For his part, Ahmed Saif Hashed, an independent MP and head of the Peaceful Salvation Revolution Front, said the February 21 election “confiscated Yemeni's rights”.

"Vice President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi doesn't recognize the revolution," he said. "Unfortunately, the Gulf Initiative didn't deal positively with the constitutional and revolutionary legitimacy."

According to Hashed, the Gulf deal failed to recognize Yemenis' aspirations and instead aimed to abort the revolution and give immunity to criminals and killers.

Asked about any viable alternative to next week’s election, he said, “They could have inaugurated Vice President [Hadi] in parliament instead of wasting a lot of money on this election.”

Hashed added that the election would not end Yemen’s problems, predicting instead that the situation would deteriorate after February 21. He also expects violence on polling day, especially in southern cities.

Tareq Al-Shami, head of the General People’s Congress (GPC) media department said that outgoing President Saleh would return to Yemen to participate in the political process.

Al-Shami added that Saleh would also remain head of the GPC.

Clerics support election

While many regional groups, and much of the youth, are boycotting the election, religious clerics are urging people to vote.

More than 200 clerics from across Yemen and including both Salafis and Zaydis met on Monday, issuing a fatwa in support the election and telling Yemenis it is their “religious duty” to vote.

Mohammed Al-Hazmi, a Salafi cleric from Sana’a, said, “Participation in this election is essential to bring Yemen out of its crisis and to achieve the [aims of the] revolution with little cost.”