SANA’A, Oct. 9 — Shura Council member Abdul Rahman Ali Othman was elected in an exceptional session to be the new chairman of the Shura Council on Sunday morning, 42 days after the former chairman Abdul Aziz Abdul Ghani’s death.
Abdul Ghani was a victim of the June 3 attacks on President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s compound. The attacks targeted key figures in Saleh’s government. Abdul Ghani died on August 22 of complications from the injuries he sustained in the attacks.
Abdul Ghani’s death left a hole in the country. Both the regime and its opponents mourned his loss. His picture hangs every three meters in the Al-Sabeen district of Sana’a. An inscription on the picture reads, “The truth will be revealed.”
President Saleh issued an executive order calling the exceptional session of the Shura Council that elected Council member Othman. Othman was first elected as a member of the Council in 2007; he had held several posts in the Yemeni government, including Minister of Industry and Trade and Chairman of the General Investment Authority.
Activists are skeptical of the process that brought a new chairman of the Shura Council, according to Ali Al-Dhobaibi, a political analyst. “The president wants to bring the national institution to life again, after the defections and suspension of work,” he said.
Since the uprising against Saleh’s regime began in February, neither Parliament nor the Shura Council have had a prominent role in the country’s political system, according to Dhobaibi. He also believes that Yemen’s institutions work and stop working whenever only when Saleh orders them to.
President Saleh met with Parliament and the Shura Council members in his palace last week for the first time since his return to Yemen in mid-September. Othman’s election came one day after the Shura Council’s meeting with the president. According to Al-Dhobaibi, Saleh intended to show that he is powerful enough to control even the country’s institutions that are not headed by his sons or nephews.
“This is not a sign of power at all. If Saleh’s regime were powerful enough it would have continued to function whether or not he was in the country, and whether or not the people were calling for Saleh to step down,” said Al-Dhobaibi.
Al-Dhobaibi said no serious impact is expected from this move. “The Shura Council is the easiest for Saleh to control at this stage. This is a battle in the media war but it will not have more effect than that since the Shura does not represent the people. Saleh lost his power over the Parliament, which used to be dominated by the ruling party majority. Now the ruling party is not a majority as many of their members resigned,” said Al-Dhobaibi.