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Managed Democracy in Yemen

Yemen had its presidential election yesterday, and the consensus view seems to be that while the ruling party led by President Ali Abdullah Salih pulled some dirty tricks and used its powers of patronage to the full, the elections themselves were relatively free and the election did offer a real choice (Washington Post). In other words, Yemen is a managed democracy. It is a desparately poor country, one of the poorest in the Arab world, with high rates of illiteracy and unemployment. It is also a society in which radical Islam has a strong sway, and which al-Qaeda has found inviting. It could use a government committed to development rather than self-enrichment, and while Yemen's government could be worse, it could be a lot better.

Jane Novak, a frequent critique of Salih and the Yemeni government, noted that despite facing many disadvantages, the opposition candidate was allowed to travel around the country and present his views to voters. Managed democracy is better than a police state, and perhaps this partial political opening will help spur reform in other ways.

Notes

2 Comments

There's several things that seem flakey about the "suicide attacks" on the oil fields.
1- No one claimed responsibility.
2- In both instances, the bombers had to pass military check points.
3- Initial regaime statements were no one was killed and that rapidly changed to the remains of the bombers are strewn across the desert.
4- US offer of forensic assistance not accepted.
5- A related al-Qaeda cell uncovered within hours, one of whom is a bodyguard who worked for a week for the opposition candidate until he was fired on suspecions of being regime intel operative.
6- The eve of the election Saleh gets on TV and brandishes a photo of the bodygurad with the oppositon candidate.
7- The bodyguard/al-Qaeda cell leader is cousin-in-law to the president.

The opposition thinks it is possible that it was staged on some level or another. Certainly it was exploited for political gain.

Thanks Jane. Salih seems to have done an excellent job of international PR in promoting his government as an ally against terrorism, but there have been so many suspicious events like this that I have long lost any belief in their reliability.