Monday, 19 July 2010

Yemen opens dialogue for reforms

By Nasser Arrabyee 19/07/2010
The Yemen opposition and ruling parties have agreed to solve their longstanding political crisis.
They have agreed to conduct “essential and genuine” reforms in the political and electoral systems before the coming parliamentary elections on April 2011.

The Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he would form a national government from all these parties if they could turn what they agreed on Saturday July 17th, 2010 into actions.
The ruling party, the People’s General Congress (PGC), and the four main opposition parties, coalition known as Joint Meeting Parties (JMPs) agreed to implement the February 2009 agreement according to which these parties postponed the parliamentary elections from April 2009 to April 2011.

After 17 months of disagreements and political wrangles , the parties under the sponsorship of President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a 10-point plan for implementing the February 2009 agreement which stipulates conducting genuine political and electoral reforms.

The first and foremost demand of the opposition was met before reaching such an agreement.
A total of 28 political detainees from the southern movement activists, were released and about 400 of Al Houthi rebels, the Shiite rebels in the north, are to be released soon according to the opposition officials who were involved in the negotiation and signing process.

The former MP, Ahmed Ba Mualem, and former ambassador Kasem Askar were among the prominent leaders of the southern movement who were released this week after they were sentenced to 10 and 5 years in prison for “harming the national unity” charges.

Four people were injured including two soldiers on Monday in the southern volatile province of Al Dhale’e in clashes between security forces and supporters of the separatist movement who were doing ‘hero welcome’ to the 28 men who were released.

Despite the fact that the parties said the national dialogue they are going to make after this agreement will include Al Houthi rebels and the southern movement and their leaders abroad, some separatist leaders commented on the Saturday’s agreement as an external affair which does not matter them. “The agreement does not matter us, it matters Sana’a regime and its allies, what we, the southerners, want is to have our independence,” said the MP Nasser Al Khubaji, one of about 10 self-declared leaders competing for leadership of the southern movement.

The most important step, and maybe the most difficult, in the 10-point plan of the agreement, is that the parties would have to form a 200-member committee to prepare for a comprehensive national dialogue and conducting constitutional amendments to guarantee the political and elections reforms required for Yemen.

100 members of this committee will be from the ruling party, and 100 from the four opposition parties which include the Islamist Islah party, the Socialist party, Nasserite party , and the Ba’ath party, the only parties represented in the parliament. Islah has 46 seats , the socialists has 7, the Nasserite has 2 and Ba’ath has one of the 301-Seat House of Representatives.

“If the steps agreed upon were implemented , we are ready to form a national government from all political spectrum for conducting the elections on time,” said Saleh said who sponsored the signing ceremony in the presidential house while he was celebrating his 32 anniversary in power, the day of July 17th.

The representative of the opposition coalition, Abdul Wahab Mahamoud, said,” We are happy with this agreement, we are happy that his Excellency President (Saleh) sponsored the agreement. We hope we’ll have confidence and cooperation in the coming time.”
The agreement was welcomed by the other opposition parties who are not represented in the parliament .

The top leader of the rebels in the north, Abdul Malik Al Houthi also welcomed it saying in a statement, “ removing the impacts of Sa’ada war will be one of the essential factors for the political stability.”

Al Houthi, who is in a fragile truce since last February, after 6-year old sporadic war with the government forces, demanded the release of all detainees , reconstruction of Sa’ada, compensation of all those affected by the war, as conditions to make the agreement a success.

Over the last week, the government accused Al Houthi of killing 11 people ( 8 tribesmen loyal to government and three soldiers) in an ambush in Sa’ada. Two days later,
Al Houthi accused the army of killing three and injuring five of his supports in an ambush in Sa’ada.

The internal reactions to the agreement were various:

The politics professor at Sana’a university, Mohammed Al Dhaheri said, “ The agreement is a limited step in the right direction, because there is an absence of implementation.”
“Yemen does not need for agreements that are not implemented, but it needs political will that implements the agreements,” he said.

The political analyst Ali Al Jaradi, said , “ it is a good chance for the political parties to reform the political and electoral systems and rescue their nation from the political economic crises.”
The minister of information, Hassan Al Lawzi said the agreement was a victory for all Yemenis who agree about the general objectives and aspirations.

Some observes views the agreement, however, as a solution for the problem of the political parties not for Yemen and some say it came as a result of pressure from US and EU who do not want the unrest to give a good environment for Al Qaeda.

“The dialogue will not solve the problems of the protests in the south and the armed rebellion in the north, as the participants will be only from the ruling party and its allies, and the JMPs and their allies,” said Ali Saif Hassan, the chairman of the Political Development Forum.
The politics professor at Sana’a university , Abdullah Al Fakee said, “Pressures from the European Union, and United States were behind the agreement.”

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