The president serves as the head of the executive branch of the Republic of Yemen. The president serves a seven-year term. The presidential elections of 1999 were the first in which the president was elected by popular vote. Prior to this, the legislative branch selected a five-member presidential council as head of the executive branch. At present a presidential candidate must receive the nomination of at least 10% of the legislature to participate in the general election.
Election Laws, Systems and Processes
The bicameral parliament is composed of the Consultative Council and the House of Representatives (Majlis Al-Nuwaab). The Consultative Council has no legislative powers, and the president appoints its 111 members. The Council was most recently appointed in April 2001. The 301 members of the House of Representatives are elected by plurality vote from single-member constituencies. The Constitution mandates that candidates for the House of Representatives must be literate Yemeni nationals at least 25 years old. A referendum held in February 2001 passed a large number of amendments to the Yemeni Constitution. One of the most significant changes made was to increase the term limit of members of the House of Representatives from four to six years, prolonging its present mandate as well as that of the president. Voting rights are granted to all Yemeni nationals who are at least 18 years of age. The Yemen parliament approved on April 24, 2005 a provision for electing its future speaker and his assistants once every two years by direct secret ballot, rather than by nomination as its current regulations stipulate. Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar has retained the post of speaker since the establishment of the first Yemeni parliament in the 1960s by means of nomination.
Political parties are regulated by Law No. 66 of 1991 Governing Parties and Political Organizations. This law mandates that political parties should be viable national organizations and cannot restrict their membership to a particular region. According to the stipulations of the Law, parties based on regional, tribal, sectarian, class, professional, gender, or racial identities, are not permitted. Party licenses are granted by the Committee for the Affairs of Parties and Political Organizations. The Committee is composed of the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, the Minister of Interior, the Minister of Justice, and four members that are not affiliated with any party or political organization, but who are nominated from among non-functioning judges or from among lawyers accredited to the Supreme Judicial Council. To avoid the suspicion of bias, the Screening Committee, established by the Parties and Political Organizations Law, has not employed its discretion in limiting the number of parties, and Yemen currently has close to 40 officially registered parties. In the 2006 presidential elections the principal challenge to the ruling "General Popular Conference Party" was the "Joint Forum" of five opposition parties: The Yemeni Congregation for Reform (Islamist), the Yemeni Socialist Party, the Unionist Nasserite Party, and the Ba'ath Party.
A constitution unifying north and south Yemen was drafted in May 1990 and ratified by popular referendum in May 1991. The Constitution was amended in 1994. The Constitution of Yemen provides for free, multiparty elections of members to the legislative and executive branches. The right to organize politically is enshrined in Article 39 of the Constitution. According to the provisions of the Yemeni General Elections Law No. 27 of 1996, the Supreme Election Committee is charged with overseeing elections. The tasks of this financially and administratively independent body include drawing constituency boundaries, engaging in voter education and registration measures, and ensuring that elections proceed according to the law. Two days before the 2006 elections, the commission abolished the single electoral district pertaining to presidential elections and required voters to vote at their registration centers, so as to improve the transparency and fairness of the elections. The composition of the Commission is as follows: the legislature nominates 15 members for committee positions, and the president chooses seven of these to serve on the committee. Candidates must receive nominations from at least two-thirds of parliamentarians. Committee members may serve a maximum of two four-year terms. All electoral disputes are settled by the Supreme Court of Yemen. In 2006 opposition parties objected strongly to presidential and local election results but the head of the European Union's observers team said that voting had proceeded in a positive manner in spite of some violations, such as violating ballot secrecy.
The most recent presidential and local elections in Yemen took place on September 20, 2006. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who retracted his public announcement in 2005 that he would not run for a second seven-year term, ran against four other candidates, the most notable of whom was Mr. Faysal ben Shamlan, the candidate of the "Joint Forum" of five opposition parties. One of the other 3 candidates belonged to a small political party loyal to President Saleh. President Saleh won the elections, receiving 4.2 million votes (77.17%) to Mr. ben Shamlan’s 1.2 million votes (21.82%). The total number of registered voters was 9 million, 42% of whom were women. The number of those who actually voted was 6 million, putting participation rate at 65.15%. In the previous presidential elections, held in September 1999, Ali Abdullah Saleh had faced one opponent and secured 96 percent of the votes.
Parliamentary elections in Yemen were supposed to be held on 27 April ,2009 . However, an agreement between the General People’s Congress Party [ruling party] and opposition parties resulted in extending the term of the current parliament for two more years.
On December 3, 2009 , elections were held to fill vacant seats in Yemen’s parliament. Around 390,000 voters cast their votes in 10 electoral districts in 10 provinces , namely : Eden, Ta’iz, Hadramout, Al-Hudaida, Thoumar, Raima, Sa’da, Al-Jouf, Imran and Al-Dali’. The number of candidates was47 of whom 25 were independent; 11 belonged to the General People Congress Party ; 3 to the Democratic Union of Popular Forces ; 3 to the Nasserite Democratic Party ;3 to the People’s Democratic Party ;and 2 candidates from the National Social Party. The elections were managed by 2030 sub-committees of which 444 were women’s committees distributed over 211 electoral centers. The number of observers was 799 males and females who represented several political parties and civil society organizations. The observers worked at the province and district levels .According to final results announced by the Supreme Committee for Elections and Referendum, the General People’s Congress Party won 8 seats and independent candidates won the remaining 2 seats.
The latest Yemeni parliamentary elections took place on 28 April, 2003. The number of eligible voters was 8 million. 5.5 million citizens actually voted, thereby bringing the participation rate to 68 percent. Four major political parties competed in the elections, in addition to a number of independent candidates. The competition was very tense. In all 821 candidates competed over 301 seats of parliament, 37 of whom were women. The final election results were as follows: the ruling party, the General Popular Conference, won 225 seats. The Yemeni Congregation for Reform (al-Tajmu al-Yamani li al-Islah) won 50 seats, and the Yemeni Socialist Party won 7 seats only. The Nasserite Unionist party and the Baath party won 2 seats each. Independent candidates won 14 seats. Opposition parties spoke of wide scale fraud by the ruling party and threatened to boycott the sessions of the new parliament in protest. On 21 May, 2003 a new government of 35 members was sworn in.
Yemen conducted its first ever elections of the governors of its 21 provinces on May 17, 2008. The governors were elected by 7484 members of local councils. The local councils are at the provincial and district levels. Political parties of the opposition that belong to the "Joint Forum" boycotted these elections because they considered them a regression in democracy since the "General Popular Conference" party (the ruling party) controls local councils as of September 2006 local elections where it won 70% of local councils seats. Final results showed that the ruling party candidates won in 17 provinces, while independents who support the ruling party won in 3 provinces. Elections were not held in Al-Daleh province (in Southern Yemen) due to lack of quorum. Only 79 out of 196 members electoral body in Daleh were present and ready to vote. After the elections, President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced that the local governance law will be amended soon. The proposed amendments include appointing rather than electing the general secretaries of local councils at the provincial and district levels so that they become representatives of the central authority. The secretary general should not necessarily be a resident of the province or district to which he will be appointed. President Saleh urged the government to set a strategy for a local governance that possesses vast powers as soon as possible.
Local elections were held for the first time across all of Yemen in February 2001 included 26,832 candidates for 6,614 district municipal council seats and over 2,500 candidates for 418 provincial municipal council seats. These officials were elected to serve a transitional term as the first elected municipal representatives in Yemen’s history.
A national referendum was held in Yemen on 20 February 2001 to approve a set of constitutional amendments. The amendments increased the term of office of the parliament from four to six years, extended the presidential mandate from five to seven years, enabled the president to call directly for new elections, following the dissolution of the parliament, without a popular referendum on the reasons for dissolution, and eliminated the provision on the right of the president to issue decrees with the force of law when the parliament is not in session or is dissolved. The new amendments also widened the powers of the Consultative Council, increasing its membership from 59 to 111 and enabling it to share the power to examine presidential nominees with the parliament. In addition, the Council now has the ability to vote on legislation when convened together with the House of Representatives either to discuss legislation related to defense, or to discuss a specific issue raised by the president.