THE FINANCIAL COST OF THE FEBRUARY 21 ELECTIONS
The campaign, which started on Tuesday, February 7, will last until February 20.
The election is not understood to be democracy in action, but rather a move to shift ruling power away from outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
On January 21, Yemen’s parliament closed the door to any other possible candidates with its announcement that Hadi would be the election’s only candidate. Hadi became a consensus candidate of all political parties in Yemen as the GCC power transition plan stated.
“This election will give another impression on democracy in Yemen, we could hardly educate people about democracy, by applying a one- candidate election we will damage what we have achieved already, we are in a high illiterate country and this is how people will receive democracy from now on,” said Mohammed Al-Masawa, head of Rushed, NGO to raise awareness on democracy.
After the plan was signed on November 23, few people questioned the clearly undemocratic practices that the deal carried with it, while some parts have already been implemented, including the proffering of immunity to Saleh and members of his regime.
But as the election date nears, debates have arisen among people on social media sites and on Yemen’s streets about whether they would in fact vote.
The Supreme Election and Referendum Committee has been offering training and has worked to raise political awareness in order to get the public involved in the upcoming elections.
On January 21, the UN signed a deal to grant the committee $15 Million – $5 million of which for the February election, and $10 million for the referendum which will follow the result of the National Dialogue that will come up with the draft of new constitution.
According to the committee, the election has so far cost more than $48 million. $40 million has come from the national public budget, with the remaining $8 from foreign sources.
“Increased financial support from the international community led to the fund going up from $5 million to $8 million so far. Germany has donated $950,000, and Japan has given $1 million,” said Dr. Abdawahab Al-Qadasi, head of international relations for the committee.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP alone has contributed $1 million.
“The international community’s response to Yemen’s electoral constituency has been remarkable. In just 45 days, the financial needs of the presidential elections, which amounted to around $8 million, were covered.
Japan, Germany, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the United Nations Peace-Building Fund quickly added to initial contributions made by the European Union and UNDP. This support has helped to cover the costs of technical assistance and equipment, electoral kits, election staff training, and media campaigns,” reads a UNPBF press release.
Gustavo Gonzalez, the UNDP’s Senior Country Director for Yemen, described these contributions as “timely” and said, “It allows us to fill the financial gap of the presidential elections.”
“This contribution supports critical training activities and reinforces the awareness campaign,” he added.
Dr. Al-Qadasi told the Yemen Times that this year, there are more ballot boxes than ever.
“We have 29,642 ballot boxes – unlike in the 2006 election, when there were only 28,742,” said Al-Qadasi. “There are even 186 new monitoring committees for internally displaced persons in Sa’ada and Abyan.”
He explained that this year, the international community has urged women to participate.
“50 percent of the monitoring committees will encourage women to participate,” said Al-Qadasi.
Al-Qadasi said that the international community has a coordination committee named the International Support Coordination Group which will attempt to boost participation in Yemen’s elections.
Meanwhile, some Yemenis feel irritated about so much money being put towards a one-candidate election at a time when widespread poverty has sharply risen.
“They should have used that money to fix the electricity instead of wasting it this way” said Nadia Mohammed, a citizen of Sana’a.
“We share the aspiration of Yemeni citizens who seek a more stable and prosperous Yemen and a government that provides all the services citizens rightly expect. The next two years of transition will be vital in achieving this, and we stand ready to support in every way possible this process,” read a joint statement by the European Union and ambassadors from the permanent five nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council.