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.