Political Analysis

Fears that Election Day May Devolve into Civil War

Many politicians warned that the next April 27th might turn into a spark of civil war. Calls have been made for officials to appreciate the gravity of the situation, as the republican regime and stability in the country are in jeopardy, especially since the parliament approved the concept of holding constitutional amendments amidst the opposition’s refusal at the beginning of this month.

Opposition figures have called the move a coup that involves bars the possibility of an inclusive government while returning Yemen to the pre-revolution period.

Mohammed Al-Dhaheri, Professor of Political Sciences in Sana’a University, stressed the need to consider the people in cases of constitutional amendments. He deemed the political regime’s repeated extension of its mandate as a “squandering of the objectives of Yemen’s revolution and its republican regime.”

Mr. al-Dhaheri warned of a precarious stage that may lead to perpetual rule by the current authorities. He said that the new amendments are part of a pre-emptive plan to extend the presidential term after 2013, at which time the president’s mandate is scheduled to end, per the constitution.

Al-Dhaheri continued, “in case the draft law is voted upon, it will turn Yemen from a republic into a monarchy under the name of a ‘republican regime.’”

He pointed out that the essence of amendments is summed up in article 112 and that it is a “justification by any ‘crisis’ of a caliphate and maintenance of power in the interest of one individual.”

Yemeni political circles hold hopes that the United States, which has entered into the rhetorical arena of the Yemeni elections, however tardily, succeeds where the leaders of the political equation in the regime and opposition have failed.

The ruling party and the opposition are deep in a quagmire of disagreements about the next parliamentary elections and the draft law of constitutional amendments, which the opposition describes as reducing political freedom to zero and making monarchy and autocracy a permanent fixture of Yemeni politics.

Still, the current political game is not devoid of excesses made by both sides.

The opposition, which includes various political trends, has attempted to sow the current political situation with various crises in order to make changes that can level the playing ground in their favor before the elections

It expects to gain big results by exploiting the political and social tension in the South, the Sa’ada issue, and the generally deteriorating quality of life in the country.

On the other hand, the General People’s Congress (GPC) attempts to buy time to maintain its electoral base and stymie the attempts of the opposition to exploit various crises to their advantage.

After the opposition Joint Meeting Parties’ (JMP) announcement that they would suspend dialogue with the president indefinitely, the President adopted the carrot and stick approach: either adhere to the elections on time, whether the opposition likes it or not, or accept constitutional amendments.

Both artifices have the potential to create turmoil that can ravage the security and stability of Yemen.

Obstructing the planned elections is the opposition’s obvious strategy, based on the JMPs’ announcement that they will not allow the ruling party to approach the voting boxes, which foreshadows a strategy of fomenting chaos through its armed tribal partisans.

The chairman of the Executive Committee’s branch of the National Dialogue in the province of Ma’arib, Mursal Ali al-Qabali, has called on the JMP to come out to streets, carry out a civil disobedience campaign, and “offer a group of martyrs in order to liberate the people.”

He also called the JMP to move on from the stage of peaceful protest to the stage of making demands by force, after the channels of peaceful dialogue have been exhausted.

Al-Qabali’s statements came one day after being elected chairman to the committee’s branch in Ma’arib during a conference of a coalition of the tribes of Marib and Al-Jawf.

The gathering came in the context of the conference of National Salvation, called for and organized by the Preparatory Committee of the National Dialogue under the chairmanship of Mohammed Salem Ba Sendwah.

Al-Qabali’s statement is considered a signal by the JMP, as the call came from two extreme and intensively armed provinces of a tribal nature.

It is believed that the president’s unilateral holding of elections will increase the tension in the political arena and may even stoke further separatist sentiments.

On the other hand, postponing the elections until a later period in light of the lack of trust between the parties will create a catastrophic constitutional vacuum.

Also, it will hold government procedure hostage to the various agreement or disagreement between the GPC and the JMP.  But this schism hardly represents the whole political scene, in light of the existence of thousands of political activists in civil society and more than fifteen registered and acknowledged parties beside the GPC and the five parties of the JMP.

It is mentioned that the provision of the planned constitutional amendments will abolish article 112 from the constitution, which limits the presidential term at two.  That is, it extends the presidential mandate for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to rule the country for life.