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.

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