Over the past decade, the Yemeni Government has continued to demonstrate
its commitment to democracy. In 1990, following the unification, a
multi-party political system was established and in 1993 an independent
electoral commission was formed.
Yemen held three credible national legislative elections:
- April 1993, Parliamentary Election.
- April 1997, Parliamentary Election.
- 1999, Yemen successfully held its first direct presidential election
monitoring effort ever taken in the Arab world
- 2001 the first local councils elections took place and 36 women were
April 2003, Parliamentary Election
These elections were monitored by a number of international monitoring
organizations, invited by the Yemeni government to both observe and offer
technical and professional assistance in developing electoral procedures.
Yemen's open door policy to international and national organizations to
monitor the elections was commended by international democratic
communities as well as by the U.S. government. Elections were judged as
reasonably free and fair.
Following Yemen's unification, the new constitution adopted the principle
of partisan and political polarity. In 1999, the Yemeni Government gave
birth to a new and technically more proficient electoral administration
namely the Supreme Commission for Election and Referendum (SCER), an
independent election commission in the Arab World.
The Constitution provides for free, multiparty elections of members to the
legislative and executive branches. According to the provisions of the
Yemeni General Elections and Referendums Law of 2001 the Supreme Election
Committee for Elections and Referendums (SCER) is charged with overseeing
elections. The SCER is an independent financial and administrative
organization. The tasks of this body comprise of drawing constituencies,
participating in voter education and registration measures, and ensuring
that elections take place according to the law.
Moreover, the Yemeni General Elections and Referendums Law of 2001 extend
this provision to local elections. At the local level, each province has a
supervisory committee that is responsible for overseeing the elections
while each district has a committee that handles voter lists. A central
permanent administrative apparatus is responsible for overseeing all
administrative aspects of the electoral process. These committees are
subordinate to the SCER.
The Parliament nominates 15 members for committee positions, and the
president chooses seven of these to serve on the committee. Members serve
a six-year mandate and are eligible for nomination for a second and final
term. An agreement known as the June 18 Agreement was endorsed by the
government and signed by the General People Congress and Joint Meeting.
This accord would many of the issues surrounding the staffing of the
elections commissions as well as other electoral reforms of interest to
the political parties. Accordingly, this agreement prior to the 2006
elections specified that 54% of the commission seats go to the General
People's Congress GPC and 46% to the Joint Meeting Parties JMP (main
opposition coalition). All electoral disputes are settled by the
independent Supreme Court of Yemen.
Presidential and Local Elections in 2006
This event was attested to be one the most competitive elections in the
region. Five candidates competed for the president post, namely: Ali
Abdullah Saleh ,the candidate of the General People's Congress (GPC), the
candidate of the National Council for Opposition (NCO) Yassin Abdu Saeed
No'aman, the candidate of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) Faisal Bin
Shamlan and two independent candidates Ahmed Abdullah Al-Majeedi and Fathi
On September 20th 2006, the Republic of Yemen held its Presidential and
Local Elections. This event was attested to be one the most competitive
elections in the region. Five candidates competed for the president post,
namely: the candidate of the General People's Congress (GPC) Ali Abdullah
Saleh, the candidate of the National Council for Opposition (NCO) Yassin
Abdu Saeed No'aman, the candidate of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP)
Faisal Bin Shamlan and two independent candidates Ahmed Abdullah Al-Majeedi
and Fathi Al-Azab.
The 2006 local council elections witnessed 1612 candidates compete for the
seats of the local councils at the governorate level that reach at 431
seats, and 18,901 candidates compete for 6,896 seats of the local councils
at the district level.
According to the SCER, 21 supervisory committees, 333 main committees at
the districts level, 5620 main committees at the governorate level and
27,000 sub-committees including 11, 733 female sub-committees participated
in managing this election. All electoral centers were provided with the
necessary security protection for the election's process that occurred
under local and international observation.
In the local council races, the GPC won 85 percent of governorate level
seats and 76 percent of district level seats. Islah, the largest
opposition party, won 7 percent of seats on the governorate councils, and
12 percent of the district level seats. The only other party to win
significant numbers of seats, the Yemen Socialist Party (YSP), won 3
percent of the governorate council seats and 3 percent of the district
President Ali Abdullah Saleh won with a 77.2% (4,149,673 votes) vote while
the other opponent Faisal Bin Shamlan received 21.08% (1,173,025 votes).
President Ali Abdullah Saleh was then sworn in for another term of 7 years
on September 27 2006.
The next presidential elections will take place in 2010 while the
parliamentary elections will take place in 2009.
Elections from 1993-2003
There are 21 political parties; the most prominent are the General People
Congress (GPC), the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) the Islah (reform) party,
the Democratic Nasserite party, the Democratic National Front and the
Nasserite reform organization.
The first parliamentary elections were held in 1993, whereby approximately
2.7 million adults (including 77% of eligible males and 15% of eligible
females registered to vote. Some 4,800 candidates registered, the majority
of them independents.3 More than 3,600, including 50 women, stayed in the
campaign until the end.
After the 1993 parliamentary elections, the SCER was formed to include
seven members, with four other members joining in March 1996, totaling 11
SCER members at that time.
The 1997 parliamentary elections were characterized by a great number of
citizens voting for their representatives in Parliament. Observers say
large numbers of Yemenis participated in the elections due to increased
election awareness. With 2,742,610 voters participating, they voted for
2,125 candidates nationwide representing 12 political parties, as well as
Election results showed that the GPC won 189 seats, Islah won 53 seats,
the Nasserite Unionist People People’s Organization won three seats, the
Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party won two seats and independent candidates won
On 23rd September 1999, the first presidential elections were held.
Candidates had to be approved by at least 10% of MPs. These elections
witnessed the win of President Salah elected by an overwhelming 96.3% of
the popular vote against General People's Congress (GPC) member, Najeeb
Qahtan Al-Sha'abi. The US observers at the time had declared the voting to
be "generally fair and free". Former President Clinton commended Yemen for
"its democratic achievements" when President Saleh visited US in April
In the 2001 a referendum was held approving a set of constitutional
amendments. The first amendment was the extension of the presidential term
from five to seven years. Secondly, the mandate of the parliament was
extended from four to six years. The final amendment was to establish a
second chamber of parliament that would be appointed by the President.
The third parliamentary round was conducted in 2003, with all political
powers participating in it. In this election, the GPC achieved an
overwhelming majority, Islah obtained 46 seats while the YSP returned to
Parliament with seven seats.
Main parties in the 2003 electoral race were:
- Party: General
People's Congress (GPC)
Leader: Ali Abdallah SALIH
Seats won in this House of Representatives election: 238
Seats won in last House of Representatives election: 189
- Party: Yemeni Congregation for Reform / Islah
Leader: Shaykh Abdallah bin Husayn al-AHMAR
Seats won in this House of Representatives election: 46
Seats won in last House of Representatives election: 52
- Party: Yemen Socialist Party
Leader: Ali Salih MUQBIL
Seats won in this House of Representatives election: 8
Seats won in last House of Representatives election: Did not
- Party: Nasserite Unionist Party
Leader: Abdel Malik al-MAKHLAFI
Seats won in this House of Representatives election: 3
Seats won in last House of Representatives election: 3
- Party: National Arab Socialist Baath Party
Leader: Dr. Quasim SALAAM
Seats won in this House of Representatives election: 2
Seats won in last House of Representatives election: 2
Summary of the 27 April 2003 Yemen
Assembly of Representatives election results
General People's Congress (al-Mu'tammar
Yemeni Congregation for Reform (al-Tajmu al-Yamani li al-Islah)
Yemen Socialist Party (Hizb al-Ishtirakiya al-Yamaniya)
Nasserite Unionist People's Organisation (al-Tantheem al-Wahdawi
Arab Socialist Rebirth Party (Hizb al Baath al'Arabi al
Total (turnout 76.0%)
electionguide.org. A number
of candidates elected as non-partisans joined MSA or Islah.
Other sources give a different division of seats.
In April 2003 parliamentary elections, the General People's Congress (GPC)
won by an absolute majority. International observers have described these
elections as a significant step forward on Yemen's path towards democracy.
" On the conduct of the third parliamentary elections, Secretary of State
Colin L. Powell declared "The United States extends its congratulations to
the people of Yemen and the Yemeni government for its conduct of these
elections. On Sunday, April 27, the Republic of Yemen conducted
parliamentary elections, the third in its history, based on principles of
universal suffrage and direct ballots. Initial reports indicate that the
election was mostly free and fair, with voter turnout estimated at 75
percent and greatly increased the participation of women voters since the
last round in 1997."
Functions of the Supreme
Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER)
The Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER) played a
vigorous and proactive role to ensure that the presidential and local
elections would be transparent and on par with the standards of the
international monitoring and supervising organizations. The Chairman of
SCER, Khalid Abdul-Wahab Al-Sharif, urged journalists to play an effective
role in electoral awareness and practice their democratic rights to serve
the country's interests.
The Supreme Commission Elections and Referendum (SCER) considered the
coming elections as the best in the region and it is a step in the correct
direction towards peaceful power transferring. Moreover, the call for a
"Weapons Free Day" by the political party leaders and SCER greatly
contributed to a peaceful and non violent election. A total of three
deaths, resulting directly from election-related violence, were reported
during the September elections. This record indicates a significant
decline compared to the 2001 elections, where by 47 election-related
deaths were reported; while in 2003 there were seven.
In an attempt to avoid any discrepancies during the elections the Supreme
Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER) declared on September 18,
2006 that it has ceased applying the single electoral constituency system
in the presidential election. This was incorporated in the article No. 5
of the general elections and referenda law No.13 for 2001.
Role of Women
Yemen is the first country in the Arabian Peninsula to give women voting
rights. A significant increase in the number of women voters to 41 percent
of registered voters, compared to 32 percent on the previous voter rolls
in 2003 was noted.
However, there was a small number of female candidates. Despite many
pre-election statements by the GPC that at least 15% of its governorate
council candidates and at least 20% of its district council candidates
would be women, in fact it nominated very few female candidates. Islah
(the largest party in the JMP) nominated no female candidates at all.
Overall, 0.7 percent of candidates in 2006 were women, slightly more than
at the previous local council elections in 2001 (though 35 women were
elected in both years). This year, seven women won governorate council
seats, and 28 women were elected to the district councils.
Role of International and Local Observers
The 2006 elections in Yemen gained world wide interest as it marked the
beginning of a true democratic transition in the Arab World.
More than 6 million of 9.2 million registered voters cast ballots in the
elections. According to Yemen’s Supreme Commission for Elections and
Referendum (SCER), as many as 45,000 NGOs and political party members were
accredited to observe the elections. This entailed vigorous efforts and
collaborations with local NGOs such as Sisters Arabic Forum for Human
Rights and foreign NGOs such as the National Democratic Institute (NDI)
and International Foundation Election System (IFES).
In order to assist SCER with the monitoring and presidential and local
elections held, the the Yemeni civil society along with the National
Democratic Institute (NDI) formed the Election Monitoring Network (EMN).
This network comprised of four local Yemeni NGOs namely Democracy School,
National Youth Center, and Woman Journalists without chains and the Yemeni
Organization for Development and Social Peace.
The Government of Yemen was particularly appreciative of the participation
of local and International Observers who had a critical role in the
monitoring of the election process. The Government of Yemen has been
accommodating to local and International observation in order to
strengthen the credibility of the election and to raise its performance to
international standards. More than 95,000 local Yemeni observers took role
in monitoring side by side with around 500 International observers from
Arab countries, European Union, National Democratic Institute and the
International Foundation for Elections and Referendum. The Observers were
distributed in various geographical locations throughout the country.
Statements on Yemen's Presidential Elections 2006
Overall, this election was considered to be a huge success to the Yemeni
population given the level of participation that was witnessed by all the
levels of the society and the presence of a strong coalition of the Yemeni
opposition who has given this election a serious choice.
President Bush congratulated Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh on his
election victory, and said the vote, which international observers
described as free and fair, was also a victory for his country and would
“set an example” for the Middle East region.
Similarly, the US State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, declared
"Yemen and President Saleh, who did win re-election in those elections,
should be congratulated on the fact that they ran some good elections that
met international criteria for free and fair elections."
Leslie Campbell, the Director of the National Democratic Institute's
Middle East Program commended "Having watched democratic developments for
10 years in the Middle East, this may have been the most significant
election so far. This is the first time in an Arab country that a head of
state has actually created the situation where there was a possibility,
albeit a remote possibility, of defeat. The fact that somewhere between 20
and 25 percent of the population felt free to go out and vote for the
opposition candidate is quite incredible."
Some of the statements by the European Union Election Observation Mission
to Yemen are given below:
fulfilled their obligation to provide presidential candidates with
direct access to address voters, enabling voters to benefit from the
opportunity to gain information on the different candidates and
their platforms. This was a notable step in Yemen as; previously,
the State media has rarely allowed coverage of opposition
politicians and policies. The amount of free airtime provided (36
hours) was generous."
"The 20 September 2006 presidential and local elections saw an
openly-contested electoral process take place that represented a
milestone in the democratic development in Yemen. The elections
benefited from the full engagement of all major political parties
and were notable for the degree of freedom enjoyed by all candidates
to assemble and to express their views so that, for the first time
in the political history of both Yemen and the region, an incumbent
faced a real challenge at the polls. In spite of the geographical,
logistical and security challenges found in Yemen, the Supreme
Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER) administered the
elections efficiently and campaign activities took place across the
The Yemeni parliament is bicameral comprising of the upper house, the
Consultative Council (Shura Council), and a lower house, the House of
Representatives (Majlis Al-Nuwab). The Consultative Council serves only
within an advisory capacity. Unlike the Shura Council, the House of
Representatives (Majlis Al-Nuwab) has legislative powers. The Consultative
Council (Shura Council) is composed of 111 members who are known to have
professional expertise and represent various regions in the country, as of
April 28, 2001, appointed by the President. The House of Representatives
is composed of 301 elected members who serve four-year terms until a
constitutional amendment, voted on in a referendum on February 20, 2001,
extended the term of the parliament from four to six years.
The Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies is Yehya Al-Rae. The Chairman of
the Shura Council is Abdul-Aziz Abdul Ghani. The Consultative Council was
created by a Presidential Decree for a five-year term with the aim of
expanding the range of political participation and involvement in the
decision-making process in Yemen. It has been given numerous
Constitutional powers including commissioning studies and forwarding
proposals and recommendations to inform government agencies on issues such
as development strategies and to contribute to institutional capacity
building of state agencies. Furthermore it gives opinion and counsel to
the President of the Republic at request.