SANAA. Dec.17 — A number of activists have announced plans to run in the upcoming presidential election on February 21.
Vice president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi set the date for the early election after honorary President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a power transfer deal in Saudi Arabia on November 23. The election will mark the beginning of the second phase of the transitional period for Yemen.
February’s election is also considered a “consensus election” with Hadi the sole candidate for both the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) and the opposition JMP.
But only these two parties signed the Gulf deal, leaving out other powerful groups. The Yemeni constitution, which will be revised in the second phase of the transitional period, stated two conditions for presidential candidates. First, both parents must be Yemeni, and secondly, they must be at least 40 years old.
Article 108 of the constitution also states that the joint Shoura-parliament council, which oversees presidential elections, must present at least three candidates. To be accepted, any candidate must receive a minimum five percent endorsement from the council. At least two must then run for presidency for any Yemeni election to be valid.
Ibtesam Al-Hamdi, an independent candidate, has begun preparations for her election campaign. Al-Hamdi is a Cairo University graduate and mother of three, in her 40s who currently works as an accountant in an engineering office.
Al-Hamdi told the Yemen Times that the idea of running for presidency is not new for her as she considered it back in 1999.
“I am not running for presidency out of a desire to show women’s rights in this position,” said Al-Hamdi. “I am running out of my rejection of the ‘former regime’.”
She indicated that Hadi and his government are part of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime, therefore Hadi does not deserve to lead the country for the coming two years, she added.
Al-Hamdi said that the Yemeni people in Freedom and Change Squares will vote for her, and that they have already assured her of their support.
While she rejects the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) agreement, she added: “There is nothing in the GCC deal states that I cannot run in the election. On the contrary, the deal mentioned at least five times that women should be represented in everything.”
Al-Hamdi is the niece of former Yemeni president Ibrahim Al-Hamdi who was assassinated in October 1977 after two years in office. He is a well- loved Yemeni president, and his photos can be seen all across Change Squares. At the time of his assassination, Ibrahim Al-Hamdi’s family accused president Saleh of killing him. His niece told the Yemen times that she bets 50 percent on her family’s history, and 50 percent on her own diplomatic skills to win the election.
Tawakul Karman, Nobel Peace Prize winner and activist, also announced her desire to run for presidential election, although she is not yet 40. She also happens to be a member of the Islah Party, which is a signatory the GCC deal.
Other independent candidates have also revealed presidential ambitions, even though they do not meet the constitutional conditions. Protester Alaa Al-Jarban, who is 22 years old, announced on his Facebook page “Alaa Jarban for presidency” that he has made the decision to run in the election.
”I know I’m way below the legal age,” he explained. “Basically, I realize the danger and the almost impossibility of the campaign but the main goals of my campaign are to encourage more young people to enroll in policy-making, and help them realize it’s not impossible to achieve their dreams and make changes,” said Al-Jarban.
“I also want to put more pressure on the vice president,” went on Al-Jarban. “He is not the only candidate and the youth are ready to monitor and challenge him and any coming leaders in Yemen.”
The youth need to become more involved, both by nominating themselves for political positions and by exercising their right to vote, he added. “It’s time for change,” concluded Al-Jarban.