By Ali Saeed
Since the start of the transitional process in Yemen, after that former president Ali Abdallah Saleh was removed from office, the Committee for Affairs of Political Parties and Organizations (CAPPO) recognized 16 political parties and unions during the past two years. According to the CAPPO, only 22 parties were registered between 1995 and 2010.
Talal Al-Hajim, a founder of Al-Wasat, a centrist party, explained to La Voix du Yémen that his party presented its completed required documents in 2005 to the CAPPO, but they refused their registration. “They told us we could not register our party because of some problems with Al-Haq and Al-Baath parties,” he said.
In 2008 and 2009, the Committee continued to refuse using respectively the ongoing war in Saada and the activity of the Hirak (Southern Movement) in the South as a justification.
Bajash Al-Mikhlafi, Secretary of the Committee, explained that in the past recognizing any party was confined to the condition of approval by the security authorities, but this is no longer the case since the political change brought by the 2011 uprising. “Establishing parties is a good phenomenon, as they are the basic mean to represent citizens in power,” he said.
Nevertheless, Al-Wasat party has not been recognized yet by the CAPPO. “In late 2012, they contacted us and gave us new requirements that do not exist in the parties’ organizing law,” said Al-Hajim.
Al-Mikhlafi explained that the party has to provide personal documents such as ID cards copies and personal photos for the 2,500 members of the party to verify their data and information. These requirements are indeed not part of the law, but he justified it as a security measure “since some persons present fake names and propose them as members of their party.”
“We provided them with the required documents and we were still not registered. So now we will just publically disclose our party since the law says that if the committee did not take a decision within 45 days of receiving all necessary documents for a party, this party becomes legal,” announced Al-Hajim.
Many new parties also facing difficulties
Al-Watan party, a “youthful” central-right party, with a focus on economics and working for an effective role of the youth in decision-making, was created after the 2011 uprising. They are however still struggling to obtain official recognition from the Yemeni government.
Al-Mikhalfi said that Al-Watan did not get its registration yet because they have not finalized legal requirements for the recognition. “When any party presents all the legal requirements, we recognize it according to the law,” he said.
But the founders of the party said that there is a clear desire to prevent them from registering as an official party. “Every time we go the Committee for Affairs of Political Parties and Organizations, they ask for more papers. There is no clear procedures for a political party to be recognized,” explained Raidan Al-Mutawakel, founding member of the party. “The Committee is dominated by the old elites,” he added, suggesting this as a possible reason for the complicated process.
Al-Mikhlafi denied that and said that the founders did not provide the copies of the ID cards. “When they provide ID cards copies of their members, the party will be registered immediately,” he said. This is however not a legal requirement.
Another party that was not recognized yet is Al-Umma party, which was disclosed early 2012 with the blessing of some leaders of the Houthi Movement in Saada in north Yemen. Despite the fact that founders of the party came from Islamic Zaydi background, they insist that the party represents Yemenis of all religious backgrounds.
Yemen also has now the first political party chaired by a woman, the Arab Spring Party, which was created in December 2011, with Amal Al-Thawr at its head.
“This new liberal party is dedicated to empower woman political participation, realize equal citizenship and boost up the deteriorated economy of the country,” said Amal Al-Thawr. “We want women to be in the position or the place they want, and not what others want for them,” she added.
While they are among the 16 parties officially registered, the Arab Spring party is not represented in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), which is expected to answer and solve the grievances of the Yemeni people and shape the new Yemen. Its leaders protested the Presidential decree that excluded the new political parties from taking part in the conference.
A limited expansion
Only two out of the 16 new parties got official representation in the process: the Justice and Building party, founded by former General Popular Congress (GPC) members – Saleh’s ruling party – who defected from the regime during the 2011 uprising, and the salafi Rashad Union. They both received seven seats at the conference.
The Rashad Union was disclosed in July 2012 to represent the Yemeni salafis, after more than 22 years operating through Quranic schools and charity societies. The salafi leaders used to see political participation under the umbrella of democracy as something illegal in Islam. But they are now an official political party, participating in the NDC.
“It is better that people create parties instead of practicing a secret movement,” said Al-Mikhlafi. “And it enforces political and social participation.”
According to Bab Al-Mandab Studies Center, the Rashad Union is expected to achieve an important presence in the political scene of Yemen since they have been involved in several social activities for a long time, including relief work, water projects and aid distribution.
This is aided by the fact that they are one of the only two new parties given a chance to participate in the NDC. The other party is composed of former GPC members, which gives the perception that the same traditional elites are in power without a real space for the new voices, especially the Youth. These news actors however are not ready to abandon their ambitions of concretely participating in political change.
“Some of the new political parties have indeed filed a lawsuit against the presidential decree including the Arab Spring Party, the Social Peace Party, the Labor Party, the Freedom and Justice Party, the Youth of National Democratic Development Party and the National Conciliation Party,” explained Al-Thawr.
While freedom of expression and political space have clearly expanded since the 2011 uprising, there is still a need to move beyond rhetoric of pluralism to real implementation and recognition of new actors.
Political parties and organizations recognized by the Committee for Affairs of Political Parties and Organizations between 2011 and 2013
- The Arab Socialist Baath Progressive Party
- The Republican Union for Popular Forces
- The Democratic Future Party
- The youth of Justice and Development Party
- The Social Peace Party
- The Youth of National Democratic Development Party
- The Justice and Freedom Party
- The Arab Spring Party
- Justice and Building Party
- The Freedom Development Party
- The Yemeni Rashad Union
- The Yemeni Labor Party
- The National Solidarity Party
- The National Conciliation Party
- The Republican Party
- The Al-Karama Party
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