Home Page - Gulf in the Media
HomePoliticsEconomy                               Set Gulfinthemedia.com as home page
 Print  Send This Page
Save Listen to this Article
A simple reform of parliament could help to save Yemen   

The National - 31 January, 2012
Author: Faisal al Yafai

Will he return? After months of prevarication, Yemen's long-time ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh finally bowed to protests that have rocked his country since last year and left via Oman, ostensibly for medical treatment in the United States.

History teaches us that the return of Mr Saleh - a great survivor of Arab politics - can never be ruled out. Indeed, he himself has left the door open, saying he plans to return, although it has been reported that he might settle in Oman and his son Ahmed is said to have been seen in the Gulf state preparing for his arrival. For his many enemies in Yemen, even exile in Oman would be too close.

Even if Mr Saleh has left for good, the system he built over the years of his rule remains in place. His relatives and the allies he cultivated over three decades still dominate Yemen, especially in the army and the air force. In recent days, a mutiny in the elite Republican Guard indicated cracks in the armed forces, but by yesterday the revolt had apparently been suppressed. In any event, the armed forces dissolving in internecine violence is hardly the desired path to change.

Yemen's neighbours - particularly Saudi Arabia - and the international community prefer stability to reform. The youth movement, which has achieved such great things over the past year at the cost of so much blood, remains committed to reform.

But how to proceed? First, weaken the centre.

This may sound counter-intuitive in a country where the writ of the state runs weak in significant areas. Outside of the main cities, especially in the wide spaces of the east and in the restive Saada province in the north, the ability of the state to enforce its will is weak.

This is the contradiction at the heart of Yemeni politics. The troubles that plague Yemen are structural, yet the state cannot solve them. Economic activity is slow, with no clear plan for how to provide jobs for the nearly three-quarters of Yemen's population that is under 30. Most worryingly, water is running out, along with oil.

Such structural problems would be best resolved by a strong central state, able to set in motion investment plans and organise irrigation and water-conservation programmes. Yet for most of the last three decades, the country's troubles have stemmed from unaccountable power at the centre.

Today, few trust the state to deliver impartial services. Mr Saleh's rule was based on playing sections of society off against each other, rewarding some and keeping others in tension. The result has been nepotistic politics, with Mr Saleh as the father figure. It is hard to see how a new president, with an old system, could enact genuine reform.

Hence, the focus of reform should be the country's parliament, weakening the ability of the president to do as he pleases. For a start, parliamentary elections are long overdue - the current parliament has been sitting since 2003. Elections scheduled for 2009 were postponed for two years and then, following the unrest last year, postponed again. There has been no meaningful change of parliamentarians for most of the past decade.

The most pressing reform of parliament would be to move from a first-past-the-post system to proportional representation. The General People's Congress, the party of Mr Saleh, has long blocked this change, which allows it to dominate the parliament, turning it into a rubber-stamp for the presidency. But this change, which the opposition Joint Meeting Parties has endorsed, would not only set Yemen back on a path of reform, it would also allow for more democracy.

With a proportional representation system, it is likely that many smaller parties would find voices within the system. In particular, the southern secessionist movement and the youth movement would find themselves with voices within the political tent, potentially acting as a pressure valve for discontent now being expressed in the street.

For the southern movement, this would also be a chance to see if some of the legitimate grievances can be solved through political means - southerners are especially keen on regaining some equitable distribution of oil revenues (the vast majority of which derive from the south), and the removal of northerners from the governorships of southern provinces. Outright secession is not the answer to these, as much as it has been suggested by southern leaders, not least because as yet there is no organised political leadership in the southern movement. Proper representation in parliament would allow the south time and space to organise and work within the system.

The counter-argument is that, with so many problems, Yemen needs strong leadership. A fragmented parliament with parliamentarians pursuing different interests might undermine national unity. Yet the contrary is true.

The systemic problems of Yemen have been apparent for at least two decades, and the supposed unity and strong leadership of the GPC and Mr Saleh exacerbated rather than ameliorated them. But secondly, offering a voice to as many of Yemen's political groups as possible would make it less likely that secession in the south or paralysis on the streets will continue. By weakening the centre, Yemen may yet be able to strengthen the whole.


On Twitter: @FaisalAlYafai
Summit bolsters GCC solidarity
Source : Gulf Today  
Date : 2014-12-11
There is no issue that cannot be solved through serious and sincere discussions. It is good that leaders at the 35th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit focused on hammering out...
Right priorities
Source : Oman Tribune  
Date : 2014-12-11
The 35th summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was held under the overhang of global events with grave economic and security implications for the region. The summit took some...
Cabinet praises outcome of 35th GCC summit
Source : Gulf Times  
Date : 2014-12-11
The weekly Cabinet meeting, presided over by HE the Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani, yesterday praised the outcome of the 35th session of the GCC Supreme...
Confront challenges with unity: KSA
Source : Arab News  
Date : 2014-12-10
GCC leaders concluded a key summit conference in Doha on Tuesday, reiterating their resolve to confront terrorism and strengthen economic integration, and taking steps to make the GCC common market...
GCC Summit vows to fight growing extremism
Source : The Peninsula  
Date : 2014-12-10
The 35th GCC summit concluded here yesterday with a series of decisions to promote cooperation in economic, political, military and health fronts and a strong commitment to fight the growing...
GCC leaders keen on joint growth, security stability - Qatar FM
Source : Kuwait News Agency  
Date : 2014-12-10
Qatar's Foreign Minister Khaled bin Mohammad Al-Atiyyah stressed at the conclusion of the GCC Summit that its leaders are committed to the economic growth and development, and the protection of...
Kuwait's Foreign Undersecretary underscores success of 35th GCC summit in Doha
Source : Kuwait News Agency  
Date : 2014-12-10
Undersecretary of the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry Khaled Suleiman Al-Jarallah asserted here on Tuesday success of the 35th GCC summit and its positive results on the Gulf and regional levels, thanks...
GCC Summit targets root of terror
Source : Khaleej Times  
Date : 2014-12-10
GCC countries on Tuesday spelt out their firm commitment against all forms of terrorism, which is against the tenets of Islam, while backing efforts to stabilise Egypt under President Abdel...
Leaders' differences should not affect people, says Emir
Source : The Peninsula  
Date : 2014-12-10
The Emir, H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, yesterday said minor differences of opinion on issues among GCC leaders should not affect their people, the region's economies, society...
Emir of Qatar receives Fahd
Source : Oman Daily Observer  
Date : 2014-12-10
Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jabir al Sabah, Emir of Kuwait yesterday met HH Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers on the...
'Let dreams come true'
Source : Arab Times  
Date : 2014-12-10
On one hand, the decision-makers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are striving to improve relationships between its six-member states, and their relations with beloved Egypt....
Supreme Council endorses decisions to establish Gulf police force
Source : Kuwait News Agency  
Date : 2014-12-10
The Supreme Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council endorsed here on Tuesday at the conclusion of the 35th Doha summit decisions and recommendations of interior ministers on the establishment of...
His Highness Amir leaves Doha after participating in 35th GCC Summit
Source : Kuwait News Agency  
Date : 2014-12-10
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and a delegation accompanying him left Doha after chairing Kuwait's delegation to the 35th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit, held in...
'Doha Declaration' calls for establishing new era of collective action among member states
Source : Kuwait News Agency  
Date : 2014-12-10
The 'Doha Declaration' issued follwoing the conclusion of the 35th GCC summit , which wrapped up its deliberations here tonight, stressed the need to establish a new era of collective...
Kuwait Emir: lack of commitment to peace, partnership pact undermined peace in Yemen
Source : Yemen News Agency  
Date : 2014-12-10
The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has referred events developments in the Yemeni arena due to the lack of commitment of one of the parties to the...
'Gulf Arabs to create regional police force'
Source : Kuwait Times  
Date : 2014-12-10
The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council says it will create a regional police force that will be based out of the United Arab Emirates’ capital of Abu Dhabi....
Differences in views should not turn into disputes, boycott
Source : Kuwait Times  
Date : 2014-12-10
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said yesterday the differences in points of view among GCC countries should not escalate to "dispute and boycott," because it would...
Total 79 Results in 5 Pages
For more news, views and reports about this topic, please subscribe
to GRC website: www.grc.net
Sat Dec 20, 2014| 27-صفر-1436هـ
Kuwait accepts reparations request
Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources speaks on world oil market
Yemen's parliament approves new Cabinet
Dubai stocks stage dramatic rebound
Qatari leaders attend National Day parade
Oil decline may hit GCC fiscal balance, growth: StanChart
Iraqi Pres. calls for intensive efforts to counter terrorism
KAC receives first Airbus A-320 plane
King Abdullah denounces Peshawar attack
Saudi Rail 2015 to showcase latest technologies, services
Resumed nuclear talks useful: Iran
Tower rents to face pressure on new supply
Unicef says needs $ 900 million to help Syria children
Investments up to $ 45bn seen in tourism-related projects in Qatar up to '30
Kuwait to host 18th meeting of GCC environment ministers on Dec. 25
Bahrain may start importing Russian gas from 2017
    Newspaper Editorials
Right approach by Palestinians
Improving Kingdom’s education system
The Reality of the de Mistura Plan for Syria
South Yemen and the question of secession
    GCC Press Agencies
Day's main stories from the GCC Press Agencies
The US Shale Revolution and the Arab Gulf States
    Bank Reports
GCC Markets Performance – May 2014
Saudi Arabia: Baseline Macroeconomic Forecast 2014-16
    GRC Analysis
Saudi Arabia and the ASEAN Periphery: Cambodia, Myanmar, and Brunei
NATO and the Future of Gulf Security.
Saudi-Vietnam Relations
    GRC Commentary
Price of not heeding Kingdom's advice
On Relations between Rulers and Citizens: The Need for a New Social/Political Contract in the GCC States
Key Issue Facing the Saudi Ruling House.
    GRC Book Review
Beyond Regionalism? Regional Cooperation, Regionalism and Regionalization in the Middle East
India, GCC and the Global Energy Regime: Exploring Interdependence and Outlook for Collaboration.
    GRC Press Release
Gulf Research Center press releases to the media
    GRC Publications
Ethnography, Anthropology and Migration to the Arabian Peninsula: Themes from an Ethnographic Research Trajectory
Can the EU Still Inspire Integration in the Gulf?
Security Dynamics of East Asia in the Gulf Region
    GRC Newsletters/Bulletins

Enter your email to get the Newsletter
Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Terms & Conditions | About Us |
Weather | Qibla Directions | Hijri Date Conversion Tool
Full Page :total time:0  |   33-- 33 Middle Page :0  --   | Right : 33 - 33--en--sess-enreq-en-coming