Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: What now for Yemen? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Pro-democracy protesters demonstrate to call for the prosecution of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa March 7, 2013. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference sessions are expected to end on September 18, but the work entrusted to its members is not likely to be completed at that point. This is because of delays in making decisions, including working on solving the problem of land being looted in the south, compensating both civilian and military workers that were involuntarily made redundant, reconstructing the damage undergone during the six Sa’ada wars, and providing an official apology for all previous wars that have taken place—especially the one that took place during the summer of 1994.

These are some of the 20 points that had to be dealt with before the start of dialogue, which were then added to 11 new points drafted by the committee itself. Following that, there was a shouting competition between interlocutors, who could not agree on the role that Islamic law should play when formulating new laws. Some demanded that it be the source of all legislation, while others demanded that it be only one source.

These issues, which some are trying to overcome under the pretext that the deadline for completing the transitional period—February 21, 2014—is fast approaching, will continue to be mines that could explode at any moment. At the least, they will be a cause for concern and fuel tensions that hinder the creation of a modern civil state.

The policy of delaying dealing with issues is the same as that practiced by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Then, it led to the accumulation of crises, which eventually caused an explosive situation throughout the country. The head of state was changed, and his party remained active within the Yemeni political scene, along with the rest of the parties that joined the youth that had protested in the streets.

The conference began amid high hopes, and many thought that it might settle the UN resolutions and the threats of Western ambassadors to prosecute those causing disruptions. Over time, however, everyone realized that conference halls would not provide the solution to Yemen’s problems. On the contrary, disagreements began to surface, and the distances between the separate interlocutors and their ideas—especially who that would decide the fate of the dialogue—began to show. Fistfights, resignations and expulsions have all been experienced as a result.

The process of approval of the constitution has been set in motion. Its articles must be formulated and prepared for presentation in February 2014. A presidential election must then take place, but it is unknown whether this will be an electoral contest between candidates or a referendum. There is also talk of converting the National Dialogue Conference into a constituent assembly.

Yemen would enter a new transitional phase if that happened. Social and political balances and interactions could be created, and individuals that are not part of traditional parties—the youth, women and independents—will be an integral part of this period, adding a dynamic and versatile aspect.

At the same time, their presence in these institutions without going through the same electoral processes would be a source of doubt and undermine the legitimacy of their involvement.

Furthermore, the numbers of representatives from political parties currently participating in the conference is not in any way proportional with their popularity or presence in the current parliament. This merely casts more shadows over the true purpose of the formula.

The situation currently being experienced in Yemen is not a revolutionary one. As such, it does not call for revolutionary solutions. At its close, the revolution was resolved by the parties by signing up to the Gulf initiative.

The current endeavor to complete the upcoming transitional period—under any designation, with texts being drafted out of sight—will not succeed. Even if it had the blessing of international sponsors, desires that are not based on a vision for the future will not be achieved.

Until now, no political faction has provided clear vision for the future of Yemen with regards to either a federal or central government. Everyone—the politicians at home and abroad alike—bring us back to ‘the will of the people.’ This thick fog that surrounds expressing and disclosing attitudes, which disappear behind slogans and phrases, is what has disrupted the proceedings of the most important committee of the National Dialogue. We have heard a tremendous amount of contradictory statements on the issue of Southern Yemen, and it is no longer possible to distinguish those that are serious.

The only thing that will prepare us, in my opinion, is to accept that the Houthis control Sa’ada and the south is in the hold of the still-divided Al-Harak (the Southern Mobility Movement). Between them, the rest of the country is in a state of confusion, waiting for those who want to take up arms.