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A dozen parties and 1,557
independents competed in Yemens second set of multiparty elections on 27 April.
President Ali Abdullahs party, the General Peoples Congress won a comfortable
victory with 187 of the 301 seats (64 more than in 1993). Its main rival, Islah (an
alliance of tribal and Islamist elements) won 53 seats, 5 went to Nasserist and
Baathist parties, and 54 to candidates described as independent. The YSP had earlier
chosen - amid bitter internal recriminations - to boycott the elections.
The voting system was far better prepared
and organised than for the first elections in 1993. The process was closely watched by
international monitors, candidates representatives, and - for the first time - thousands of trained Yemeni observers. Reports by the
international observers, while critical of some aspects, were broadly favourable. The
Joint International Observer Group in Yemen, representing 13 countries and the European
Commission, found that on balance, considering all the circumstances, the elections were
"reasonably free and fair".
For many Yemenis proper conduct of the electoral process was more
important than the outcome itself: the ability to do it by the rule-book is a prerequisite
for building a modern state. Following criticisms of the 1993 election, procedures this
time were much improved, especially in the use of party symbols to help illiterate voters.
Most of the irregularities reported on election day were relatively minor: more cock-up
than conspiracy. More serious criticism centred on irregularities in the registration of
voters. There appeared to have been abuse on all sides, so the overall effect was possibly
Voting took place in a mainly relaxed mood, three years to the day
after the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. The final days of the the campaign had seen an
unexpectedly vigorous but generally good-natured contest, complemented by a 30 hour radio
broadcast, detailing the names of all 2,311 parliamentary candidates, summarising their
policies and describing their logos, followed by the names of 25,000 electoral officials.
Mutual suspicion and distrust came to the fore at the counting
stage: in a room full of suspicious minds, nobody gets away with anything. At a school in
Sanaa the first of 38 ballot boxes (with about 200 ballot papers) took one hour
twenty minutes to resolve the objections and count. No wonder the results from 16 seats
were still awaited after the time limit of 72 hours for completing the count was long
The above is drawn from the articles of Brian Whitaker,
Managing Editor, Guardian Newspaper.