Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Is it time for dialogue? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The political scene in Yemen has remained at an impasse for some time, between the opposition, who have protested on the streets for weeks, and the government, which has found itself in the midst of a storm it wasn’t expecting, at least in this manner, or at least so soon after what happened in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

In Tunisia and Egypt, the masses had the legitimate right to change the government, because the political regime had not provided them with the necessary political tools to get their message across, through elected councils which could hold the government to account or even change it, or remove those in power, should the people believe that their participation is not in the public interests. The revolution succeeded in achieving its primary goal of changing the government, because the crisis there formed a general consensus, or a large societal majority, who wanted change to happen and insisted upon it. There were also political and institutional forces ready and willing to administer the transitional period.

In Yemen, the composition is different – there are political parties, tribal forces, and a parliament which includes opposition figures, and has a degree of political mobility, but it also appears unconvincing to the masses. All this mobility and diversity in the political composition of Yemen has resulted in nothing, and has not provided anything to the average citizen, who also complains of corruption.

Yemen is also different because the regime is now exhausted, following problems and crises accumulating one after the other, to create a kind Molotov cocktail, which no one knows when it will explode, or in what direction. There is a problem in the south, and another in the north with the Huthi rebels. There is a problem with terrorism and al-Qaeda, which is trying to find an alternative foothold after Afghanistan. All of these problems have been fought with weapons which have resulted in thousands of victims. Above all there are the age old problems of the deplorable economic situation, high unemployment, and high levels of poverty, with nothing on the horizon to give people hope for a better tomorrow, and this is a highly dangerous situation.

Anyone observing the sequence of events over the past years must have seen that Yemen was at boiling point, ready to explode at any moment, and this is what has been happening now for weeks, in the form of escalating clashes, with numerous casualties. The regime, under pressure from the masses, offered concessions, but the opposition considered these to be too little too late. There was even an announcement from one member of the ruling party, proposing a new initiative for a government of national unity, led by a member of the opposition, with promises of a timetable for a new constitution, and presidential elections to be held no later than the first quarter of next year.

This announcement initially gave a positive indication that there could be a way out of this crisis, at a time when it seemed no one had the potential to resolve it. However, it appears that amidst the clashes and the confrontations, no one heard this initiative well, or the extent of the political impasse has caused confidence to be lost completely.

Here lies the role of political parties and leaders, who are aware of their country’s circumstances. Whenever there is a genuine possibility to avoid a bloody clash, it must be seized upon through words and dialogue, or by giving the negotiation table an opportunity to find a solution. At the very least, it would have been beneficial [for opposition forces] to explore the credibility of the regime’s offer, and prepare for its implementation and guarantees. Responsibility here is shared; it rests mostly on the ruling party and officials, who must convince the opposition and the masses that they are serious in their offers of dialogue, whilst it is also up to the opposition to seize that opportunity when it arises, provided it is genuine.