INTERVIEW: Dr. Aidros Nasr Al Naqeeb, Head of the YSP Parliamentary Block, “The Yemeni regime has no desire for reforms in any field.”
Armies of Liberation conducted an interview with DR. AIDROOS NASR NASER AL NAQEEB, the chairman of the Yemeni Socialists Party’s (YSP) Parliamentary block. Dr. Aidroos represents three districts in the southern governorate of Abyan. The YSP ruled South Yemen until its 1990 unification with North Yemen. After Yemen’s civil war in 1994, the country’s democratic foundations were undermined by constitutional amendments that centralized power in the executive and by practices of the northern elite that subjugated the south. Reconciliation between North and South was thwarted in part by the rampant corruption of the northern oligarchy. Over the last several months, southern Yemen has witnessed large popular protests that resulted in the deaths of several protesters.
“In the last period there was some decrease in women’s opportunities.”
Q: Dr. Aidroos, how do you communicate with the members of your constituency? Do you have an office in your local district to receive people? How often do you visit?
A; According to the guidelines of the parliamentary council, every Member of Parliament should establish offices in their constituency as soon as possible after the election. My electoral constituency includes three separate districts. It is hard to establish an office in each of these three districts because geographical obstacles make it difficult to travel.
We perform direct visits to all these districts. Sometimes we met people in the capital of Abyan, Zanjibar, when they come for supplies. Also we have representatives in their areas. Many times we continue our discussions by phone. This is the best method for continuing communications.
Q; How do you reach women voters? How are the concerns of women voters different from men voters in your district?
A: Concerning the women’s sector in Abyan I would like to say, in the last period there was some decrease in women’s opportunities. But recently there was an improvement in women’s political voice. Our communication with women saw good development. We meet with women during visits and festivals among other times. In elections, women participate in an equal ratio to men.
“The elections did not express the true desire of the voters.”
Q: The Yemeni Socialist Party allied with the Islamist political party Islah (The Yemeni Assembly for Reform) and other opposition parties for the 2006 presidential election. This opposition coalition, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), has been described as a model for the region. The JMP had a good showing on the national level. However, the opposition parties competed on the local level and lost badly. Does the JMP have a coordinated strategy for the parliamentary elections in 2009?
A: Let me say to you first, the outcome of presidential election (re-electing President Saleh) in 2006 was subverted by extensive forgery. Voters were terrorized and bribed. Therefore the result of presidential and local council elections did not express the true desire of the voters.
The JMP is strongly motivated to enter the 2009 Parliamentary election as an alliance, using either the program or “list of candidates” method.
Q: Has the JMP become more or less unified since the 2006 elections? Why?
A: The JMP laid the foundation of a strong alliance during the 2006 presidential election. The alliance of the opposition parties demonstrates the civilized approach to politics. The JMP alliance is stronger now than at any time. The aggressive tactics launched by the regime and its various proxy and apparatus made the alliance more unified.
Q: Some observers say that parts of the YSP, like parts of Islah, are actually loyal to the regime. Others point to a split between nationalists and regionalists. How do you respond?
A: We can’t talk about opposition that is loyal to the regime because that is not logical, but of course there are differences of opinion and approaches toward dealing with the ruling party and the issues we face.
About the next part of question, I can say that there are no nationalists or regionalists in the regime or the opposition. Yemeni politics are a result of a complicated of political life and the operation of society and economic on the national way.
“Building an alliance in parliament with members of the GPC…is impossible.”
Q: Have the opposition members of Parliament been able to form alliances with reform minded members of the GPC? Why or why not?
A: The desire for real reforms became a public demand not only of the opposition but also of the GPC. Therefore I can say there is a long line (of people) in the GPC that have a strong desire to institute many reforms in Yemen. But there is a difference in their expression. Some have the ability to hint at this desired outcome and others can not express themselves.
Q: Does that mean they have no ability to express their opinions or positions because of fear?
A: Yes. That is right and everybody can see that. The inability to speak bluntly or even to hint comes from the fear of the consequences or official procedures, which occur against anyone with an outspoken position that crosses the red lines established by powerful people.
Q: Does fear and the “red lines” restrict all members in the GPC?
A; My statement is about all members in the GPC, not only members in parliament. I want to add there is a faction of the GPC that has declared their refusal of corruption and demanded many reforms in different fields.
Returning to the question about the possibility of building an alliance in parliament with members of the GPC, in fact we can not talk about this in the current circumstances. It is impossible. But there are many excellent positions adopted by GPC members in Parliament. The problem is that GPC members in Parliament claim they have orders from high up which are against their own inclination and which obstruct the work of parliament to do any reforms.
“Land theft is an undeniable fact.”
Q: A high GPC official recently said land theft in the South by influential northern people is a lie. Can you tell us how much land is alleged to have been stolen in the South?
A: Land theft is an undeniable fact and there is no need for more questions or uncertainty about its existence. The last statement of Dr. Saleh Ali Basora, the head of the Presidential Committee for resolving issues of land theft is more than enough to make that clear.
The land stolen includes agricultural lands, land of the former government in south, lands of corporations and wide areas suitable for building and investment trading. I have no statistics available about the total area of land stolen, but as one example I can indicate to the “Lineen farm” in Abyan governorate which is about 4000 acres. This farm is one of many farms stolen after war 1994. This occurred in all southern governorates. Regarding commercial lands, these are estimated at tens and tens of kilometers.
“Influential people …have the power to destroy any person that damages their benefits.”
Q: Does the presidential committee has the ability or authority to solve these problems?
A: I don’t believe the presidential committee has the power to solve the problem or succeed in its mission. While I don’t doubt in the committee’s fairness or in their desire to do some thing better, there are influential people stronger than all these committees. They are big military leaders and officials in the ruling party that have substantial authority and the power to destroy any person that damages their benefits.
Q: The underlying problem in the South seems to be a complete lack of officials’ accountability to the public. President Saleh recently issued a list of constitutional amendments that if implemented would decentralize power. Do you believe the regime has the will to implement these reforms?
A: First, I have some remarks about the question’s preface which refers to the “southern problem”. The YSP in its Central Committee term diagnosed this case and described it as the result of unwise politics after the 1994 civil war and the inequitable treatment of Southerners in general that followed the war. The YSP Central Committee indicated that the South was treated as the spoils of war including land, people, companies and wealth. The YSP also noted the violence against the current protesters reflects the type of politics which has dominated after the outcome of the war.
I think the regime has no actual desire for any administrative, financial, political, or legal reforms. The recent initiative of President Saleh doesn’t contain any new proposals. In practice, it will further consolidate power in the central authority, and all the posts will be derived from presidential authority. Yemen needs a parliamentary system, not a presidential system.
We as a country face civil unrest, economic stagnation and social difficulties. There is no remedy without increased Parliamentary authority and power, the separation of authority between the executive branch and the Parliament, and the ability of the Parliament to act as a check on executive power. I have no confidence in the ability of Parliament to call President Saleh for inquiry like any other parliament within a presidential system.
“The presidential initiative will hinder the emergence of democracy in Yemen.”
Q: Does the YSP support the President’s reform proposals?
A: We in the YSP in conjunction with the JMP presented our view of political reforms, which is the need to transform to a parliamentary system. I believe the presidential initiative is meant to undermine the JMP’s earlier proposal. The JMP wants to fix the entire system and re-balance parliament and whole local authority structure. This means that the JMP’s initiative is more progressive and comprehensive than the President’s initiative. We are ready for any dialog on our initiative.
Q: Can the proposed reforms, even if insincere, bring about an empowerment of the Yemeni citizen?
A: I don’t expect any positive results from Saleh’s initiative. The result will decrease popular empowerment and turn back the democracy project. The presidential initiative will hinder the emergence of democracy in Yemen. The important thing about it is that the initiative accompanies a larger project designed to protect the status quo under the guise of the protection of national unity.
“A positive investment climate requires an end to corruption.”
Q: China has a booming economy due to free-market reforms. What sort of free-market reforms would your party implement in order to make the Yemeni economy more robust?
A: We are an opposition party and do not have in our hand the ability to create economic policy, but in our view a free market economy first requires firm legal principles and an end to arbitrary selection outside of the market influences. It requires an end to policies which stand on nepotism, anarchy and savagery in economic investment.
A safe environment for investment is created through ensuring stability. Stability encourages local and foreign capital to flow into investment operations, and establishes financial, administrative, and legal facilities for investors.
A positive investment climate requires an end to corruption which is the first enemy of investment. Investors are also currently hampered by the principle of business’ obligatory participation with influential persons. I think with these assurances in place, investment capital will come to Yemen and will create a booming economy, a decrease in unemployment and an increase in self sufficiency.