Electoral System in Yemen

Electoral System in Yemen

Written by

YASEEN ABDULLAH ALI

Published on

The electoral system in Yemen provides advanced features. The electoral process is dynamic and maintains a set of regulations and ten mechanisms for administering them. Those mechanisms underline the need to maintain diagnosis of any shortfalls and legal drawbacks that surface during the practical application in the different stages of the election process.
Features of the Yemeni electoral system include:
1. Pursuing the most advanced methods for free, direct, general and equitable elections through secret ballot.
2. A set-up that includes different authorities of the state in accordance with constitutional and legal legitimacy and in compliance with the wishes of the people as expressed by ballot boxes. These authorities are Parliament, the Presidency of the Republic and local councils.
3. Holding general elections on the basis of freedom and competition. This is a right enjoyed by the Yemeni people upon reaching the age of 18, male and female without any discrimination. This includes the right for nomination and voting on the grounds of equality in rights and obligations.
4. The Constitution states in Article (159) that the Supreme Electoral Commission should be independent and neutral. The Elections and Referenda Law has set out all controls and regulating measures that will lead to guaranteeing the independence and neutrality of the Committee in the performance of its duties. The electoral system also grants the Yemeni emigrants overseas the right to participate in presidential elections and in referenda.
5. Non-interference of any kind by the Executive Authority in administration of the elections or in their supervision and monitoring. Major political parties and organisations participate in the membership of the Supreme Electoral Commission.
FIRST PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
The first parliamentary elections were held on April 27, 1993. This was a display demonstrating democracy in practice. The elections attracted regional and international election observers to monitor the electoral process, including voting and ballot counting. The elections had been a real test for political parties and organisations representing a spectrum of ideologies and philosophies as the country undertook its first democratic experience and political contest. The registered electorate for the elections numbered 2.7 million male and female voters. Total voter turnout was 2.3 million (84.7% of the registered electorate).
Candidates numbered 3,166, of which 1,226 were partisan candidates and 1,940 independent. Female candidates numbered 42, of which 18 were partisan nominees and 24 independent.
Political parties in Parliamentary Elections 1993
Parties
Seats
The General People’s Congress
181
Yemeni Socialist Party
56
Yemeni Congregation for Reform (Islah)
52
The Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party (Yemen)
7
Al-Haq Party
2
The Popular Nasserite Unionist Organisation
1
The Popular Nasserite Reform Organisation
1
The Popular Nasserite Democratic Organisation
1
More than 22,000 people took part in the management of the elections representing different political parties. There were also 4,000 volunteers who took part in monitoring the elections throughout the country. Seventeen international observers from different countries and international agencies monitored the elections, in addition to other monitors representing the European Union and the diplomatic corps in Yemen.
The election results led to the formation of a coalition government of three political parties, the People’s General Congress, the Yemeni Congregation of Reform (Islah) and the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP). This was the first time a Left wing party like YSP aligned with Islamists (Islah) in one government.
SECOND PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
The second parliamentary elections were held on April 27, 1997 exactly four years after the first elections. The second elections constituted a success in maintaining the momentum in deepening democratic practices in society. This sentiment was echoed by a wide range of regional and international observers who monitored the electoral process along with all political parties in the country, including procedures, vote counting and announcement of final results. The outcome of the 1997 elections drew a new political map that confirmed the development of awareness and progress in political evolution. The second elections had brought to an end a political crisis that resulted from the merger and subsequent political in-fighting and squabbling within the coalition government.
Registered voters numbered 4.6 million, of which 1.2 million were females. There were 12 political parties that participated including the ruling coalition parties, the PGC and the Islah and six parties which form the National Council for the Opposition. Additional four parties participated in the polls representing another opposition bloc, the Higher Coordination Council for the Opposition, along with the independent candidates. The total number of candidates was 2,125, of whom 1,399 were independent nominees. The number of female candidates was 23, of whom 15 were independent. There were 37,000 people administering the elections comprising election supervisory committees, election main committees and ballot committees. More than 20,000 people monitored the elections representing local observers and those representing international agencies and organisations. Twenty observers also monitored the polls and the election process representing Arab and foreign countries, in addition to the media and democracy and election advocacy groups. Voters turnout registered 2.8 million (61.3% of total registered voters).
The new Elections Law No. 27 for 1996 imposed on candidates to use election symbols to make it easier for illiterate voters to cast ballot.
The 1997 election results gave the majority to the GPC with 187 seats, the Islah Party with 53 seats, the Nasserite Unionist Party with 3 seats and the Ba’ath Party with 2 seats. The independents gained 54 seats. Independent candidates who won in the elections joined either the GPC caucus or the Islah caucus, with 36 going to the former and 10 joining the latter.
THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
The Presidential Elections of September 23, 1999 underlines commitment to the peaceful transfer of authority, being an essential pillar of the political regime in the Republic of Yemen. These elections were important progress and adherence to democratisation. Presidential elections in Yemen had been the first in the region, in which the head of state reaches the Presidency through the ballot box. The constitutional amendments of 1994 allowed voters to elect the head of state. This amendment made the elections for the president direct. Twenty four people contested for the post of president. The nominees represented a wide array of politicians and independents. Only two of the contestants were confirmed by Parliament. These were Ali Abdullah Saleh, as a candidate for the GPC, the Islah and the National Opposition Council, and Mr. Nagib Gahtan Al-Sh’abi as an independent. The number of registered voters was 5.6 million. Turnout was 3.8 million voters who cast ballot (67.4%). Ali Abdullah Saleh gained 96.2% of the votes against 3.8% for Al-Sh’abi.
Several arrangements were taken to facilitate the voting. Yemen was viewed as one voting district in its entirety. There were 2,337 voting centres. The electoral process was administered by 53,000 people. Election monitors numbered 707 local observers representing NGOs and 22 observers representing Arab and international organisations and foreign embassies. There were 239 representatives from the local, Arab and international media.
LOCAL COUNCIL ELECTIONS
The first elections for local councils were held in 2001 marking another step towards enhanced democratisation in society. There were 22,000 men and women who contested the local council seats in the governorates and districts. They represented an array of political parties and organisations, as well as independent candidates. The percentage of voters reached 49.4% of the total registered electorate. The elections, which also coincided with the referendum for constitutional amendments, resulted in the victory of 6,283 male and female candidates for the district local council seats and 417 male and female candidates for the governorate local council seats. The GPC was able to win 274 seats in the governorate local council and 3,807 seats in the district local councils. The Islah followed with 85 seats in the governorate local council seats and 1,449 in district local councils. The YSP won 16 seats in the governorates and 219 seats in the districts. The independents were able to gain 32 seats in the governorate local councils and 765 seats in the district local councils. Some of the other parties also won seats in the district local councils only. These elections were witnessed by local, Arab and international monitors.
THIRD PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS
The Elections of April 27, 2003 were held at a time when a new permanent voter registry was developed and became the basis for future elections. The representation of political parties in the Election Supervision Committee included 48% for the opposition parties, 44% for the GPC and 8% for the Supreme Electoral Commission. Districts were divided into electoral centres with a set of criteria addressing geographical, social and population aspects. Districts were divided into 5,621 voting centres, in accordance with the Local Authority Law and its subsequent amendments. Previous divisions remained for parliamentary districts which total 301 districts. The registered electorate was 8.1 million voters, of whom 3.4 million were women, compared to about 1.3 million women voters in 1997. Election turnout was 76.6%. Twenty one political parties competed in election filing 991 candidates. The number of independent candidates was 405. Women participated actively in the elections committees and as voters. Eleven women candidates contested the elections.   The election process was administered by 80,000 people and was monitored by 21,000 local, regional and international monitors. The GPC won 76.1% of the votes, followed by the Islah with about 15% of the votes. The YSP managed to win about 2.3% of the votes and 4.6% for the independents.
[Extracted from the writer’s doctoral thesis on Indo-Yemen Trade Since 1990 submitted to C.C.S. University, Meerut, under the supervision of Dr. Jas Vir Singh , Reader in Economics, Krishak (P.G) College Mawana]