Elections Monitoring Committee report
The April 1997 elections were administered by the Supreme Elections Committee (SEC), which was formed in 1993 according to Law no. 41 of 1992. The SEC consisted of seven members, chosen by the President of the Republic from among a list of fifteen persons elected by parliament.
Despite issuance of the new Elections Law no. 27 in 1996, the 1993 SEC continued to operate. It comprises the following persons:
1- Muhsin Al-Olfi (president)
2- Mohammed Abdullah Al-Arasi (vice-president)
3- Saeed Mohammed Al-Hakimi (member)
4- Abdulfattah Al-Basir (member)
5- Abdullah Saleh Saba'a (member)
6- Ameen Ali Ameen (member)
7- Dr. Khalid Gheelan (member)
As stipulated by the law, the SEC has a four-year term. A new committee has to be formed following each legislative elections. Thus one of the early tasks of every elected parliament is to nominate, through a two-third majority, new members for the SEC. A presidential decree is then issued in their appointment.
As stipulated by the law, a SEC candidate has to satisfy several criteria. He/She has to be completely impartial, has to stop all partisan activities, refrain from running in general elections, and avoid any form of electioneering.
The SEC has complete financial and administrative independence. The SEC's most important duties are as follows:
Dividing and specifying the constituencies in the Republic of Yemen.
Appointing and constituency-assigning the presidents and members of the supervisory committees and the main and sub-committees, that are entrusted with preparing the electoral roasters.
Preparing forms, rosters, permanent election cards, ballot boxes, and ballot papers.
The numbers of such committees during the last elections were as follows:
18 supervisory committees: one per governorate.
301 main committees: one per constituency.
3761 sub committees: one per voting center.
9,752 ballot-box committees.
Representatives from all political parties and organizations fielding candidates were included in these committees.
The parliamentary elections process can be divided into three main stages:
The first stage (registration) which started on 1 July, 1996. Voters' names were checked against the 1993 roasters, and due amendments were made. Those who lost their right to vote because of death, change of domicile, travelling abroad, or any other legal reason, had their names removed. Names of new eligible voters - Yemenis who reached the age of 18 on 1-1-1997 - were added to the roasters.
The second stage started on 1 March, 1997. It witnessed the training and constituency-assigning of the members of the various committees. The numbers of constituencies and voting centers were increased to meet the rise in voter numbers. Voters registered in the final roasters were issued with permanent elections cards. During the same stage, candidacy applications were received. Accordingly, candidates campaigned via the media, elections posters, etc. The deadline for candidacy withdrawals was set for 20th April, 1997.
The third stage involved the acceptance by the SEC of the local and international observer commissions. The necessary preparations for the elections were also completed.
Three local elections-monitoring groups were active in the last elections. These were the Elections Monitoring Committee (EMC) - which had the largest number of pollwatchers - the Arab Democratic Institute (ADI), and the People's Committee for Monitoring the Elections' Impartiality. These three organs were allowed to conduct their work without any real interference by the SEC or the government.
The SEC also invited several countries and international organizations, concerned with human rights and democracy, to participate in observing the elections. Many observers and parliamentary figures were sent by different countries to witness the elections. These delegations were organized into three main groups. The first was the National Democratic Institute (NDI) group; the second was organized under the Joint Elections Assistance Secretariat (JEAS) mainly for the Europeans; and the third was the Arab groups under the umbrella of the Arab Human Rights Organization (AHRO). A local group - Media & Observers Support Team (MOST) was created to help.
In addition, the Yemeni government facilitated the work of international media delegations and representatives. A local, non-governmental information committee - Al-Jasr - was formed to assist the media delegations.
PARTICIPATION OF POLITICAL PARTIES
Twelve political parties and organizations took part in the parliamentary elections held on 27 April, 1997.
Four political parties had boycotted the elections. They are the Yemeni Socialist Party, the Yemeni Unionist Congregation Party, the Federation of Popular Forces, and the League of the Sons of Yemen.
CANDIDATES AND VOTERS
The total number of parliamentary candidates was 3,851. Of these, 850 candidates were nominated by parties, and the balance of 3,001 were independents. Of the total, 540 withdrew, leaving only 2,311 candidates to finish the race.
There were 23 women candidates: two from the PGC, two from the Arab Baath Socialist Party, one from Al-Haq Party, one from the People's Nasserite Reformist Party, one from the Arab Baath Socialist Nationalist Party, one from the Social Nationalist Party, and 15 independents. Six women withdrew their candidacy before the end of the race.
Every independent candidate had a special logo.
According to Yemeni law, every citizen, male or female - 18 years and older - has the right to vote. Thus, based on the census, the total number of eligible voters is 6,976,040 (42.32% of the population). Of those, 3,497,920 are male and 3,478,120 are female.
The number of people who registered to vote, according to the SEC final roasters is 4,637,728. Of those, 3,333,178 were male and 1,304,550 were female.
The number of people who actually cast their votes was 2,827,261, i.e. 60.97% of the number of registered voters or 40.53% of the population base eligible to vote.
The highest turnout - calculated on the basis of registered vote lists - was in Ibb (70%), followed by Hajjah (68.2%), and Taiz (68%). The lowest turnout was in Al-Mahrah (44%), preceded by Lahaj (44.9%), and Hadhramaut (45%). In Sana'a and Aden cities, the turnout percentages were 55.3 and 53.5, respectively.
The announcement of the final results of the elections was noticeably late. The SEC issued the results in dribs and drabs over a period of more than ten days. This is a violation of the law, which stipulates that the results have to be made public within a period of no more than three days after closing of the polls.
That delay, however, was due to objective reasons, including the backwardness of the vote-counting procedures and the friction among the contenders.
Results from constituencies no. 204 in Dhamar and 283 in Hajjah were cancelled.
Most independent candidates joined different political parties. The PGC absorbed 39 independent candidates, Islah got 10, the YSP 2. The independent bloc is now left with 3 members only.
Mr. Abduljalil Thabit (PGC candidate) in Hodeida got the highest number of votes (more than 14,000). At the other end of the scale, an independent female candidate in Ibb got the lowest - 8 votes only.
ELECTIONS MONITORING COMMITTEE
The formation of the EMC goes back to mid 1996. Since its official establishment on 21 September, 1996, the EMC closely followed the preparations for the parliamentary elections.
The opening of EMC branches, and the designation of their staff started in October, 1996, and continued till the end of that year.
During February of 1997, the EMC held many meetings to explain the nature of its work for its coordinators in various governorates. In March and April of 1997, monitor-training workshops were organized in several governorate centers such as Sana'a, Taiz, Abyan, Mukallah, Sa'ada, Dhamar, Radaa, Hodeida, etc.
By elections day, 7,200 pollwatchers - representing the EMC in 180 constituencies - were fully trained and ready. They were provided with special EMC shoulder bands, elections IDs, and guidebooks containing monitoring forms. In its preliminary report, the EMC relied on these reports.
On elections day (27 April, 1997), 6,043 male and female EMC pollwatchers were present in 173 constituencies. They documented the elections process in detail.
This large number of Yemeni pollwatchers working in various regions has made a valuable contribution to the success of the democratic process in general, and the elections in particular. They had their share of trouble. One of the EMC pollwatchers, Mr. Yasir Salim Saleh Al-Bani (card no. 26D, constituency # 73 C) was shot at during the skirmish that took place in the Lahej constituency. He now has a fractured hand.
COMMENTS ON THE ELECTIONS
Essentially the elections were successful and represent a milestone in the development of political life in Yemen.
The efforts to adhere to the law and the transparency that characterized most stages of the elections are to be commended. There are, however, some observations that must be made in order to help enrich and improve the democratic process, and rectify its shortcomings.
1- Unhelpful Voter Attitude: During campaigning in general, and on voting day in particular, a number of irregularities and violations took place. These were largely due to wrong behavior by the citizens. Some were deliberately done to serve the interests of candidates. Others were due to the new nature of the democratic experience, low level of awareness, and the widespread illiteracy. The most serious violations were as follows:
Continuation of elections campaigning to voting day and inside voting centers, contrary to the stipulations of the law.
Some voters went into voting centers to cast their ballots fully armed.
Refusal by some voters to dip their thumbs in the special ink after casting their votes.
High ranking government officials went to vote accompanied by large numbers of body guards;
Some voters disclosed the names of their chosen candidates while still at the voting center;
Some voters sent others to vote in their place; and
Some female voters went with their men folk to choose the appropriate candidate for them.
2- Inadequate Administration of the Elections: The most important problem that marred the elections was related to the administration of it. Doubts were expressed regarding the legitimacy and impartiality of the Supreme Elections Committee (SEC). This can be clearly seen through the following. The most important problem that marred the elections was related to the administration of it. Doubts were expressed regarding the legitimacy and impartiality of the Supreme Elections Committee (SEC). This can be clearly seen through the following.
Litigations were made to contest the SEC's legitimacy. Many called for the formation of a new committee in accordance with Law no. 27 of 1996.
Court rulings were issued upon litigations to oblige the SEC to form main committees and sub-committees.
Mistakes were discovered on ballot papers regarding the names and logos of candidates.
A shortage of ballot papers occurred due to allowing some registered voters who did not collect their elections cards.
It seems the SEC used two types of ink: one removable and the other more permanent.
Using various excuses, some voting centers were opened later than the specified time.
Some members of the elections administration committees informed their (big) parties about the progress, irregularities and results of elections before reporting to the SEC. Hence, the major parties were able to evaluate the situation before the others.
Contradictory instructions were often sent to the elections committees and subcommittees.
No arrangements were made for the handicapped to cast their votes.
The declaration of the final results was delayed.
3- Violence and Incidents: Fears of violence expressed before voting day never materialized. This may be due to the positive role played by the security teams and the awareness of people. Even then, violence leading to death did occur. Some of these happened in: Fears of violence expressed before voting day never materialized. This may be due to the positive role played by the security teams and the awareness of people. Even then, violence leading to death did occur. Some of these happened in:
Constituency # 204, in Sanaban, Dhamar.
Constituency # 128, in Mukairas, Abyan.
Constituency # 73, in Mahalla, Lahaj.
Constituency # 300, in Abeeda, Marib.
Constituency # 61, in Jabal Habashi, Taiz.
Constituency # 251, in Khowlan, Sanaa.
4- Armed/Security Forces Votes Tip the Balance in Favor of Some Candidates: The current general elections law needs to be amended regarding the vote registration of members of the armed and security forces. The transfer of military camps from one place to another in the months preceding the elections influenced the results in certain constituencies. The current general elections law needs to be amended regarding the vote registration of members of the armed and security forces. The transfer of military camps from one place to another in the months preceding the elections influenced the results in certain constituencies.
5- Attempts to Frustrate Petitioning of Results: The post-election situation clearly limits any contestation of the results. Neither the proper channels nor simple procedures were readily available for lodging contestations. Complainers also doubt the credibility/impartiality of those persons responsible for receiving the petitions. A general, de facto atmosphere prevails. However, many petitions were turned in to contest election results. Many more petitions could be turned during the first sitting of the parliament.
6- Decision to Boycott the Elections: Four parties boycotted the elections. These are the Yemeni Socialist Party, the Yemeni Unionist Congregation Party, the Federation of Popular Forces, and the League of the Sons of Yemen. This decision affected the voter turnout, especially in the southern governorates, where turnout was lower than the national average.
The boycott, however, was not wide enough to discredit the elections results.
The boycotting parties were able to exercise their rights in publicly, freely and directly advocate their cause.
It would have been useful had the parties and citizens boycotting the elections collected their voting cards. Boycotting is related to ballot-casting rather than completing the procedures related to the rights of citizens in preparing to vote.
7- Participation of Marginalized Groups: Yemeni law guarantees for all Yemenis, who meet the relevant conditions, the right to vote and stand in elections. Despite that, women and certain marginalized groups were unable to exercise their rights fully.
The April 27, 1997 elections witnessed serious efforts to involve these previously marginalized groups. All parties agreed to push women to vote and stand. A total of 17 female members ran for parliament. Two PGC women representing constituencies in Aden have succeeded in winning.
For the first time in Yemen's history, a person from a disadvantaged Akhdam (servants) class had nominated himself as independent in constituency # 40 in Dimnat Khadir, Taiz. Although he did not win, the fact that his nomination was officially accepted and he ran is a proof of the positive development of Yemeni political life.
The EMC recommends the following:
Female members must be included in the SEC.
The legal requirement that stipulates reviewing of the electoral rosters at the beginning of every year must be fully enforced. We recommend that the SEC publish the list on the first day of every year giving ample time for corrections.
When nominating members to the new SEC, strong personalities who are not easily swayed by the authority, political parties, or power centers need to be chosen.
The elections timetable must be reviewed so as to allow enough time for printing ballot papers, candidacy withdrawals, and electioneering.
Training of personnel administering the elections must be continued and intensified. Young people known to be clean, efficient, responsible, and highly must be recruited.
Electoral rosters must be computerized. A special, computer-readable ballot paper needs to be designed in order to allow a swift and accurate counting of votes.
A department devoted to working exclusively with local and international elections observers needs to be established within the SEC.
The SEC should embark on a continuous and comprehensive campaign to raise public awareness regarding the elections system and procedures.
Members of the armed and security forces should exercise their right to vote, without being manipulated to serve political ends. The EMC suggests to amend the elections law by:
Stipulating that the votes of the members of the armed/security forces are to be counted in their village of origin, or the place of domicile within the last four years.
Arrangements must be made for the security personnel guarding the elections committees, and the persons administering the elections must be allowed to cast their votes like any other citizens.
Arrangements and facilities must be made for handicapped people to vote.
To review the campaign process, especially as far as the use of official media is concerned. Citizens need to be able to distinguish among the candidates and to see what they stand for. Towards this end, we suggest:
to extend the period of electioneering.
to increase the time allocate for campaigning on television and radio stations.
to use the local radio stations.
to arrange debates and talks among candidates.
Issued in Sanaa on 12/05/1997
Ms. Shada Mohammed Nasser
Ms. Salwa Ahmed Qassem Dammaj
Dr. Salahudeen Haddash
Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf