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.



falyafai@thenational.ae

On Twitter: @FaisalAlYafai
 
King returns from Doha
Source : Gulf Daily News  
Date : 2014-12-10
His Majesty King Hamad returned last night after leading Bahrain's delegation to the 35th GCC Summit that concluded in Qatar....
Kuwait hails success of elections
Source : Gulf Daily News  
Date : 2014-12-10
Kuwaiti Amir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah yesterday hailed Bahrainis for their massive participation in the recent parliamentary and municipal elections....
Stronger together
Source : Gulf Daily News  
Date : 2014-12-10
GCC leaders last night stressed solidarity with Bahrain in confronting terrorist acts and strongly condemned bombings that kill innocent people and threaten the kingdom's security and stability....
Brief News: 35th session of the GCC Supreme Council
Source : Gulf Times  
Date : 2014-12-10
The GCC leaders and members of delegations honoured the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah who has been named by the United Nations as UN humanitarian leader....
Emir welcomes GCC leaders
Source : Gulf Times  
Date : 2014-12-10
HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani led well-wishers to welcome the leaders of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) yesterday afternoon in Doha to participate in the 35th session...
Website launched on His Majesty
Source : Oman Daily Observer  
Date : 2014-12-10
Oman Qaboos Website, a dedicated website on His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said's grandeur personality, was yesterday launched as part of the GCC Leaders' Initiative....
Alawi takes part in GCC Foreign Ministers meet
Source : Oman Daily Observer  
Date : 2014-12-10
The Sultanate's delegation was chaired by Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdallah, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs....
No enmity with Egypt, says FM
Source : The Peninsula  
Date : 2014-12-10
There is no enmity between Qatar and Egypt so the question of rapprochement does not arise, said Qatar's Foreign Minister....
Kuwaiti Oil Min. says 35th GCC summit focued on declining oil prices
Source : Kuwait News Agency  
Date : 2014-12-10
Kuwaiti Oil Minister and Minister of State for National Assembly Affairs Dr. Ali Al-Omair said here on Tuesday that the GCC leaders on their 35th summit discussed a number of...
GCC's historic turning point
Source : Arab News  
Date : 2014-12-10
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit taking place in Doha, Qatar, is one of the most crucial in its 33-year history, coming as it does in the wake of unprecedented...
Facing threats from ISIS and Iran, Gulf States set to join forces
Source : KPBS  
Date : 2014-12-09
A member of the Saudi border guards force mans a machine gun at Saudi Arabia's northern border with Iraq, on July 14. Since the so-called Islamic State launched its offensive...
Qatar receives GCC leaders for 35th GCC Summit
Source : Kuwait News Agency  
Date : 2014-12-09
Qatar on Tuesday receives their Majesties and Highnesses the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) who will attend deliberations of the 35th GCC Summit....
Pact to hire Indian domestics cleared
Source : Arab News  
Date : 2014-12-09
The Council of Ministers, chaired by Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, on Monday approved the Kingdom's agreement with Delhi for recruitment of Indian domestic workers including...
Doha summit to map out security plan 
Source : Arab News  
Date : 2014-12-09
Leaders of the six-nation GCC are expected to discuss several key issues at their two-day summit starting Tuesday including regional security, terrorism, declining oil prices and relations with Iran....
Support for Egypt to top GCC Summit agenda
Source : Khaleej Times  
Date : 2014-12-09
The summit is expected to tackle crucial issues like the war on terror and its regional ramifications, other regional developments, drop in crude oil prices, support for Egypt and ties...
Fahd to lead Sultanate team at GCC Summit
Source : Oman Tribune  
Date : 2014-12-09
On behalf of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, HH Sayyid Fahd Bin Mahmoud Al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers, will leave on Tuesday for Qatar...
Media center accompanying 35th summit opens
Source : Kuwait News Agency  
Date : 2014-12-09
Qatari assistant Foreign Minister for Services and Follow-up Affairs Rashed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa inaugurated here on Monday the media center and the photo exhibition accompanying the 35th GCC Summit...
Total 79 Results in 5 Pages
  3 
For more news, views and reports about this topic, please subscribe
to GRC website: www.grc.net
Mon Dec 22, 2014| 29-صفر-1436هـ
Qatar-Egypt talks push hailed by KSA 
Bahrain's outlook revised down to negative
ISIS executes 100 foreign fighters for trying to flee Syria
Fitch maintains AA rating for Kuwait
Bahrain detains 5-member terror cell
Oman sovereign fund boosts local stocks
NCB delegation meets Egyptian FM on initiatives for Syria
Oil prices test Iran's support for Syria
Death of key leaders may not finish ISIS
Qatar banks' loan book marginally down in Nov
FNC discusses prevention of family violence
Gulf markets sell-off fuelled by credit and lax regulation
Ban Ki-moon condemns Radaa terrorist attacks
Oil plunge, nuke uncertainty weigh on Iran rial
Saudi forces kill 4 'terrorists'
Dewa hikes 2015 budget to Dh22.87bn
    Newspaper Editorials
The peshmerga gain
US thaw with Cuba
More>>  
    Opinions
Sharing a World with Baghdadi?
Oil price drop tests Iran's support for Syria
More>>  
    GCC Press Agencies
Day's main stories from the GCC Press Agencies
    Reports
More>>  
    Bank Reports
GCC Markets Performance – May 2014
Saudi Arabia: Baseline Macroeconomic Forecast 2014-16
More>>  
    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
Go
      
Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Terms & Conditions | About Us |
Weather | Qibla Directions | Hijri Date Conversion Tool
Full Page :total time:0  |   13-- 13 Middle Page :0  --   | Right : 13 - 13--en--sess-enreq-en-coming