Category Archives: Yemen

Yemen – Presidential election

There was a presidential election in Yemen on 21 February. The election was held in the context of the peace deal that was brokered towards the end of last year.

There was one candidate at the election, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi. He was previously Vice President and was Acting President following the deal that led to President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepping down.

At the election, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Al-Hadi won 99.8% of the vote. The turnout was reported to be 65%.

In a previous post, I asked the following question, ‘has Yemen’s current constitution been suspended?’ I still don’t have an answer. So, I am assuming that the constitution is still operational and that, therefore, Yemen is still constitutionally semi-presidential. Certainly, there is still a prime minister. PM Muhammad Salim Basindwah was appointed in December, again as part of the peace deal.

Yemen – President signs peace deal and steps down

To date, there have been two semi-presidential casualties of the 2011 Arab Spring – Egypt and Tunisia. Yemen may be the third.

Last week, President Saleh finally accepted the Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered agreement that was designed to end the conflict in the country. The text of the agreement is available here.

Following President Saleh’s withdrawal, the agreement is starting to be implemented. The new president is the former vice-president, Abdu Rabo Mansour Hadi. He has appointed an interim prime minister, Mohammed Basindwa. PM Basindwa was the choice of the opposition. President Hadi has also announced that a presidential election will be held on 21 February. The full government is now due to be formed. A committee should be appointed to draft a new constitution, which will be voted on in a referendum. There will also be legislative elections.

The question to which I do not have an answer is ‘has Yemen’s current constitution been suspended?’ I get the impression that the various reforms have been given legal effect through presidential decree. However, I do not know whether or not the decrees are officially legimitised via the existing semi-presidential constitution, or whether the constitution has been suspended and they are being legitimised through an interim arrangement. If anyone has the answer, then do please let me know.

Yemen – President and PM in Saudi following attack

The situation in Yemen is now starting to make world headlines. Following President Saleh’s refusal to accept the GCC-sponsored political deal that would have seen him standing down from power (see previous post), the situation has degenerated into near civil war.

On Friday, a rocket attack was launched on the president’s compound in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. The rocket hit the mosque in the compound where all the senior political figures of the regime seemed to be congregated. There were a number of deaths and both the president and the PM, Ali Mohammed Mujawar, were injured. There are conflicting reports about the nature of the president’s and the PM’s injuries. Technically, PM Mujawar is a caretaker PM. He and the government were dismissed by President Saleh in March and were asked to stay on only until a new government had been formed.

Anyway, it has now been confirmed that both the president and the PM have now gone to Saudi Arabia to receive treatment for their injuries. Remarkably, constitutional niceties seem to have been followed and there are reports that the Vice-President, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has taken over as interim president in Saleh’s absence.

There are reports that a ceasefire is close. However, President Saleh’s absence from the country surely renders the situation even more unstable.

Yemen – GCC proposal to end crisis

The Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) has been trying to find a peaceful way of ending the crisis in Yemen. Its most recent proposal was announced on Thursday. Key to any resolution is the fate of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

According to Al-Shorfa, the GCC proposal is as follows: “The new initiative requires Saleh to transfer authority to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi for a transition period lasting two months which would end with new presidential elections. The initiative also includes an end to the sit-ins and the formation of a national unity government. Saleh would select a member of the opposition to lead the cabinet. Under the proposal, half of the new cabinet members would be from the ruling General Congress Party, 40% from the opposition and 10% from other parties. The GCC plan guarantees immunity for Saleh, his family and his aides through creation of an amnesty law.”

According to Almotamar the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) party has accepted the deal. There are wire reports that the opposition Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) has also accepted the proposal. Previously, they had wanted President Saleh to resign before agreeing to a deal. If the JMP has changed its position, then the ball is firmly in President Saleh’s court. For his part, Almotamar quotes President Saleh as saying that he will step down if a majority want him to do so. This is not being taken as a very positive reaction to the initiative. Meanwhile protests continue.

Yemen – Unrest and possible constitutional change

Yemen is one of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa that has been caught up in the recent wave of unrest. To date, the government’s response has tended to be repressive. However, demonstrations have continued.

Recently, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power since 1994, has proposed major constitutional changes as a way of managing the situation. Yemen Observer has a good report on his speech.

During the speech he outlined proposals for major changes, including a national unity government and a proportional electoral system. For the purposes of this blog, though, he is also reported as saying that he wanted to introduce a parliamentary system. Given the slipperiness of definitions at the political level, it is not clear what he meant by this term. However, it could well be that Yemen’s tenuous grip on semi-presidentialism is about to end.

That said, President Ali Abdullah Saleh is under pressure and the initiatives may not be enough to stem the tide of protest. Events may yet overtake his reform plans.

Yemen – Constitutional amendments proposed

Yemen is on the cusp of semi-presidentialism. This is because of the constitutional mechanism for directly electing the president. Leaving aside the political issue of whether any election would be free or fair, Art. 107 includes procedures that potentially restrict the number of candidates. That said, the election is not a plebiscite, because the constitution also states that at least two candidates must stand at the election. Yemen exhibits the other elements of semi-presidentialism required by this blog. So, even though the provisions for the direct election of the president are restrictive, I do tend to class Yemen as being constitutionally semi-presidential.

There is a longer post on this topic here and the 1994 constitution as amended in 2001 is available here.

Anyway, the constitution is likely to be amended in the near future. According to the report here, the amendments will alter the composition of the upper chamber of parliament, the Shura Council, such that it comprises representatives of local councils and presidential nominees. In addition, the electoral system is being reformed so that 44 seats are reserved for women.

Crucially, the amendments also propose a reduction the president’s term from seven years to five years, as well as the abolition of presidential term limits.

The amendments are now being examined in a parliamentary committee. They are due to be passed in March. There will have to be a referendum to approve them. Parliamentary elections, which have already been delayed by two years, are due in April.

Yemen – Elections postponed, constitutional amendments likely

Yemen is not a country that springs to mind as semi-presidential. However, constitutionally, Yemen just about has a semi-presidential system according to the definition in this blog.

Art. 107 a of the 1994 constitution states that the “Election of the President of the Republic shall be by the people and in a competitive elections.” Those who wish to stand have to be approved by the House of Representatives, but clause f states that the “House of Representatives is bound to recommend at least two persons for the post of the President of the Republic before submitting the candidates to the people in competitive election”. If a country’s constitution simply allows the selection of one candidate and then the ‘election’ constitutes a plebiscite for the approval or otherwise of that candidate, then I do not count the country as semi-presidential. However, if there is the opportunity for a competitive presidential election, then I consider the direct election requirement for semi-presidentialism to be, constitutionally, satisfied, whether or not the election is actually then free and fair. (I consider that to be a matter of politics, not the constitution). So, while Yemen is not ranked as an electoral democracy by Freedom House, it does just about have a constitutional provision for competitive presidential elections. The 2006 election was competitive in that there was an opposition candidate who won nearly a quarter of the recorded vote, but there was major electoral fraud.

Article 128 states that the “The government is composed of the Prime Minister and his deputies and Ministers who together shall form the Council of Ministers.”

Article 130 states “In consultation with the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister chooses the members of his cabinet, and seeks the confidence of the House of Representatives on the basis of a program he submits to the House.”

Article 131 states “The Prime Minister and the ministers are collectively responsible for the actions of the government before the President of the Republic and the House of Representatives.”

Article 97 states “The House of Representatives may withdraw confidence from the government … The request for interpolation must by signed by a third of the members of the House. The House cannot vote on the issue of no-confidence in the government without seven days’ notification of such a vote. A majority is necessary to pass a vote of no-confidence.”

The Constitution is available here.

Anyway, things may be about to change. Parliamentary elections were due to be held in April of this year. However, Election Guide reports that the president has been forced by the opposition to pass a constitutional amendment to delay the election for two years. The impression is that this was because the opposition feared fraud and because the president had been weakened by protests over the last months.

In addition Middle East online reports an MP as saying that part of the deal “stipulates a move from the presidential to a parliamentary system and amending the electoral law to allow for a proportional vote by a list instead of a single candidate constituency.” However, my search of other online Yemen newspaper sources has not shed any more light on what is meant by a move to a parliamentary system.