Is Yemen an example for the Middle East?

Former US ambassador to Yemen, William Rugh, says the Gulf’s poorest country could be a democratic example for other nations across the Middle East to follow.

  • E-Mail
By  John Irish Published  January 21, 2004

Better known for extreme poverty, kidnappings and in recent years a rise in terrorist cells, Yemen is often considered the rogue nation of the Arabian Gulf. However, despite fundamental economic flaws, since the unification of North and South in 1990, a type of democracy is prevailing across the Land of Sheba. “Yemen is much more democratic than Saudi Arabia, but also more so than Egypt and the Gulf states, says William Rugh, former US Ambassador to the southern Gulf state. “You’d have to go to a place like Lebanon to find a more democratic system than Yemen.” While nobody will argue it is an ideal democratic model, Rugh says that considering the country in its present form is just 14 years, it has done remarkably well politically, in comparison to other Middle East nations. “I observed one national election and it seemed free and fair. The public was sufficiently aware of how to vote and how to deal with the problems of voting, that it looked as though the system was working and that the vote counting was very carefully done.” Although he points out that the President has never lost an election and that his majority increased since the 1990s, he puts that down to a lack of education and a disorganised opposition rather than government interference. “There is an opposition and the press is fairly lively. All that leads to some quite open criticism of the President and the government, so it’s a criticism that in a little over a decade has gone a long way in creating some representative form of government.” Rugh, who recently retired as President of the American-Middle East Educational and Training Services Corporation (AMIDEAST), adds that a careful manipulation of the system by the President’s party is holding back further development. “The weakness or the undemocratic aspect of the system probably occurs in the nomination process, because there is a lot of behind the scenes manoeuvring among the parties and party leaders. “Often [the government] will persuade opposition politicians to run, for example, as independents rather than as opposition, and so when they get into government, they vote for the government party. It’s that kind of manipulation of the system, but it’s not necessarily an illegal or undemocratic system,” concludes Rugh.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code