Interviewed by THE YEMEN POST
in Cooperation with Al-Ahale Newspaper
Abdul Baset Al-Qaedi: You finally agreed with the ruling party – the General People Congress (GPC) – but, from previous experiences, the results of negotiations will not be fruitful. Do you expect further achievements for the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) over the next two years?
Ali Al-Sarari: The current agreement is not different from the previous ones. There could be attempts to go around it. However, this agreement does not include any solutions for the country’s problems, and rather gives both parties – the authority and opposition (JMP) a chance to review their stances and the possibility for reaching a compromise to the goals of each party.
AQ: So it was a postponement agreement only?
AS: It is exactly so. I think the ruling party will be the loser if they fail to abide by the agreement because this agreement helped postpone the imminent explosion of the crisis.
AQ: Is it a postponement for a forthcoming confrontation?
AS: The delay of the elections is one way to postpone the explosion. Both should seek to benefit from this chance, or otherwise the forthcoming crisis will be very difficult and the explosion will spare none. Yemen is now facing several crises, whether economic or others that relates to the high cost of living and crises linked with the national entity of the country. The entity is on the verge of dissolution once a prompt and responsible solution is not proposed.
AQ: Who asked for the postponement: GPC or JMP?
AS: I can say that it was the wish of both parties, as both parties realized that it was difficult to reconcile over the electoral process on unilateral basis. It was a common wish; however, each party was trying to hide it, because it does not want pay the postponement price. GPC kept on signaling that opposition wants elections to be postponed though we never asked for that.
AQ: Regarding the postponement, is it a solution for Yemenis’ problems, congestion in South Yemen, Sa’ada problems and the economic crisis?
AS: No. The postponement of elections does not mean a postponement for these problems. It is just a postponement of elections. The agreement addressed neither South Yemen problems nor Sa’ada issue. The same applies to unemployment, poverty and suchlike problems. The agreement was meant for getting over the political impasse.
AQ: This means that there is no schedule, international observers or guarantees for reaching a true agreement?
AS: So far, there has been nothing of this sort. Still, I think that both parties should act responsibly and it is advisable to involve other parties in this issue. Once the chance of the two years is missed, there will be no more chances before us.
AQ: Prior to elections, GPC used to imply that it will continue its one-sided preparations for the parliamentary elections and JMP never changed its stance. What happened lately?
AS: GPC took unilateral measures to conduct elections in an effort to pressurize JMP. GPC leaders were not serious about conducting one-sided elections and they were content that continuing to walk in that path was wrong.
AQ: Some say that there were attempts to divide JMP?
AS: This is exactly the GPC strategy for administering the crisis. In the very beginning, it tried to seduce JMP to participate in the upcoming elections under their conditions. Once it failed, it resorted to the second tactic. dividing JMP and seducing some to participate in the elections.
AQ: Some media outlets suspect that a secret deal was reached between both sides, and the delay of elections was a cover up?
AS: This leaked information is baseless. I think this defames JMP. It is offensive to speak of fake deals. It is sorrowful that some writers started to believe in it. I can assure you that there were no deals at all.
AQ: President Saleh called for reconciliation among the political parties. Is he a party in solving Yemen’s problems or a president for all Yemenis?
AS: The president is the head of GPC and he is the one who takes the decisions and draws the party’s policies. We deceive ourselves if we think about this issue in a different way. I think that the president is the GPC and the GPC is the president.
AQ: This means that he is the real actor?
AS: He is actually the real actor. When GPC took the decision to continue its one-sided preparations, it could not proceed, because the president was not for that tendency. The president’s will is mightier than the GPC’s will.
AQ: Agreeing on the postponement of elections has resulted in extending parliament’s term for two years, to what extent is such an extension legal?
AS: When I speak about this I speak from the political point of view, but legal aspect is left to jurists who are more capable to answer this question. From my view point, the country was falling into the abyss. The political division was to plunge the country into a dark tunnel. I think that postponing elections means postponing the crisis’s explosion. Again, I think that laws should meet the needs of people and states and people should not be restricted by these laws.
AQ: President Saleh recently returned from Russia and official information in Russia speaks about a four-billion dollar deal for purchasing weapons and hardware. Some say that these sums were allocated for the postponed elections?
AS: Weapon deals are made from time to time. These sums are public money and they should not be spent on elections, especially under the circumstances Yemen undergoes at the moment. The ruling party has no right to spend the public money to achieve its electoral goals. When the country is undergoing a severe crisis, with millions of unemployed people, over 50 percent living below poverty line coupled with the shortage of resources, money spent on weapon deals should be spent on other aspects which help alleviate the current economic problems.
AQ: Regarding international parties, have they announced their stances towards postponing the elections?
AS: The international parties – we consider to be our partners in the democratic experience, were keen about conducting the elections on the fixed time; however, the ruling party’s procrastination and delay in putting the agreements into practice made us approach the fixed date for elections without reaching an agreement. Therefore, the international partners do not object postponing the elections once this postponement could lead to the implementation of the signed agreements. Generally speaking, postponing the elections has passively affected Yemen because it led to a two-year extension in the terms of the president, parliament and local council members.
AQ: Indicators imply that there will be no achievements during the two-year postponement?
AS: There is a possibility. We might achieve some tasks for which the postponement was necessary. Once such tasks are not achieved, this will be catastrophic. We hope that both GPC and JMP will seize the chance and not be wasted.
AQ: Are you optimistic about that?
AS: I am optimistic when I look into people’s need to get utmost benefit from the allowed time. I can give a precise answer to this question six months from now.
AQ: Will the nationwide counsel program stop by this postponement?
AS: There is no link between the elections and the JMP preparations for holding a nationwide council meeting. The counseling program is a further step towards involving all political and social actors and intellectuals in discussing the different problems they face and setting the solutions for them.
AQ: What if GPC conditions halting the national couns