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Election thoughts

As noted below, the Yemeni Parliament has overwhelming agreed to postpone elections for two years, pushing them to the futuristic 2011. The Yemen Observer, taking an angle I hadn’t thought of, had a headline of “Parliament Extends Term By Two Years”. I haven’t been able to decide if that is a positive spin- we aren’t delaying elections, we’re just extending our terms”- or a negative one to make it look like this was a move by those power-hungry legislators, and possibly against the will of party leaders. Considering how tight the gov and the Observer are, and how the paper is (obviously) for an English-language audience, I am leaning toward the latter.

But: alas. The State Department released a statement of disappointment today. Here it is, in full, so you won’t even have to bother clicking above.

The United States views with deep concern and disappointment the decision by Yemen’s ruling and opposition parties to postpone the April 2009 Parliamentary elections for two years. It is difficult to see how a delay of this duration serves the interests of the Yemeni people or the cause of Yemeni democracy. We sincerely hope that the political leadership of Yemen uses this period to cooperate in earnest to reach a consensus on the procedures for the elections that are consistent with the recommendations made by international elections observers in 2006. All parties share the responsibility to ensure that the people of Yemen have the opportunity to choose their representatives in a timely and transparent manner. The United States stands ready to assist in this process.

This can either be described as “tersely worded” or “basically unconcerned”. After the throat-clearing boilerplate of “this doesn’t serve democracy” State makes it pretty clear they understand the move. There wasn’t much of a chance for JMP to make a big splash here, for a number of reasons, so boycotting was their best option. As for Saleh, he wouldn’t want to win a huge election with no opposition. That also looks bad. So both parties are going to take a breather and sort things out.

Interestingly, up north, Saleh Habra, the chief negotiator for the al-Houthis has asked the JMP to intercede, saying “The JMP’s support of the Sa’ada issue has made people in Sa’ada feel that they are not alone and that the JMP and all honest people of the country are concerned about their issue,” he said.”The symposium assured people of Sa’ada that peace and stability are approaching Sa’ada and other governorates. The Yemeni people of the country rely a lot on the JMP to deal with crises, wars and the failed policy of the ruling party. Dominance and unilateral critical decisions are no longer accepted.” Although Yayha al-Houthi, from Germany, critiqued the postponement, we may be able to see the outlines of a strategy. The JMP, with its bizzaro mix of socialists, Islamists, moderates, and modernists, is probably going to try to reach out to the disaffected in both the north and the south. It has been trying to do that, but if it can take an active role, rather than a passive, criticizing one, 2011 might be tighter than we can presently imagine.


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