Yemen: a new parliament too?

The political situation in Yemen remains as confused as ever – which is why I have avoided writing about it for some time. However, there are now a few signs of movement.

In a speech to mark the end of Ramadan, President Saleh (who is still in Saudi Arabia after being injured in a bomb attack last June) talked of preparing for "free, direct, and general presidential elections". Some reports suggest they could be held by the end of this year.

Whether this will amount to anything more than the usual prevarication and bluster remains to be seen. Saleh's current presidential term does not officially end until September 2013.

An early presidential election, on its own, though, is not going to make much difference since Saleh's party, the General People's Congress, holds an overwhelming majority in parliament.

Parliament's term had been due to expire in April 2009 but was then extended for a further two years. The postponed elections failed to materialise again in April this year – ostensibly for technical reasons, though the turmoil in the country also made holding them impractical.

If there is to be any hope of progress and real change, parliamentary elections at the earliest opportunity, as well as presidential elections, are going to be essential.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 31 August 2011