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Leaving 'Constitutional Vacuum'; SCER's Formation not Resolved
  Written By: Moneer Al-Omari (YEMEN POST)
  Article Date:
August 18, 2008



Forming the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER) has been widely debated by the General People Congress (GPC)  ruling party, and the opposition parties known as Joint Meeting Parties (JMP).

This left the country in a constitutional vacuum and delayed the SCER formation that should have been working right now on the registration process, together with other tasks like modifying and adding to the electoral register.

The differences aggravated between political players over the last few months, which led JMP members at parliament to boycott its sessions, especially after the constitutional amendments law was inset in the parliament's agenda without being agreed on by the political parties.

Seeking to contain the situation and solve the problem, President Saleh convinced opposition leaders to start serious dialogue with the ruling party for forming the SCER and to include the different political forces in the field.

However, JMP seeks equal representation in the SCER, and this move aims to halt any elections once their members withdrew from the commission.

This led the ruling party to seek alliance with other political parties known as the National Council for Opposition (NCO). These parties are not recognized by JMP as opposition parties as they call them GPC-cloned parties.

Parliament Speaker Yahya Al-Ra'ee, also a GPC leader, told the Yemen Post that they are holding serious dialogue with the JMP, and hinted that they are close to reaching an agreement over SCER formation.

Al-Ra'ee added that they have agreed over most points that were a source of debate in the past; stressing four points were left including the electoral place and electoral register.

When the issues of the SCER and the electoral system were disputed, both GPC and JMP negotiators agreed to allow an immediate solution by President Saleh.

Political observers are concerned over the constitutional vacuum in the country, stressing that the delay in SCER formation could affect the democratic and electoral processes.  

After conducting the last presidential and local elections on September 20, 2006, GPC and JMP held constant dialogues and signed an agreement of principles.

It was agreed that the SCER shall be formed from a group of judges appointed by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), a system followed in Egypt and some other Arab countries.

The agreement stipulates that SJC presents a list of 21 judges and the list is referred later to parliament whose task is to select 15 judges from the presented list. Later, the 15-member list is referred to President Saleh who selects only nine of them to run and administer the affairs in SCER.

Fearing the majority of GPC at parliament, opposition parties started to seek other options, and they asked for forming elections committee by political players represented in parliament.

As of 1990, the SCER was formed from political parties and the percentage of each party was decided by its volume of representation in parliament. The aim was to produce an impartial commission. The case remained so until 2007.  

By the end of November 2007, the terms of SCER members came to an end and it was necessary to form a new commission and select new members to perform the different electoral tasks.

However, the matter was not easy due to opposition parties not being happy with its performance, which led some of them to doubt its credibility especially when favoring the ruling party.

In 2006, lengthy dispute between GPC and JMP took place over the SCER and its tasks. This prompted international agencies to force a solution lied on appointing two additional members from the opposition to the seven-member commission.

JMP sees that forming the SCER from judges will disarm it of its impartiality and asks for a commission from political parties and not judges; as they also demand for fair representation in the commission to guarantee its neutrality.

In return, GPC assures that JMP is to blame for not forming the SCER and noted that they refused its constant calls, hinting that opposition parties seek to postpone elections or reach an agreement that favors them over the GPC.