Donna Kennedy-Glans – Yemen’s 2006 election was not only a barometer of pluralism in the Arab world, but also, a barometer of hope within Yemen. The September 2006 election results in Yemen mark the first time in modern Arab history that a president was seriously contested by an opponent with substantial popular support.
The election outcomes – for both the ruling party and the opposition – are tangible evidence that positive leadership and pluralism are indeed capable of flourishing in Yemen.
Since the first experiment with presidential elections in 1999, there has been keen interest in Yemen’s political life. I vividly recall that first presidential election; President Saleh won with 96.2 percent of the popular vote and his only challenger was a former member of the ruling party running as an independent. In 2006, President Saleh of the General People’s Congress was again the victor, but with only 77.2 percent of the vote; his opponent, Faisal Bin Shamlan of the Joint Meeting Parties (an opposition coalition) won 21.8 percent of the vote. This garnering of voter support by opposition parties not only demonstrates the influence of alternative voices in Yemen but somewhat paradoxically reinforces the legitimacy of the ruling party’s leadership.