Islah, Ali Abdullah Saleh, cabinet posts, amended constitution, lobbying groups
Before unification, North Yemen was governed by a benign authoritarian regime dominated by the military, and South Yemen functioned as a centralized socialist party-state. Politics opened up with the creation of the Republic of Yemen in 1990, and the number of freely functioning parties, lobbying groups, and communications outlets multiplied. During a 30-month transition period, the unification regime was based on equal power sharing between the General People’s Congress (GPC) and the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), the former ruling parties of North Yemen and South Yemen, respectively. An open, hotly contested national election in April 1993 marked the end of the transition period and yielded a coalition government consisting of the GPC, the YSP, and the conservative Islamic Reform Grouping (al-Islah), with the GPC holding nearly a majority of the cabinet posts. The 1993 election was the first multiparty election on the Arabian Peninsula, and the first in which women could vote; the vast majority of Yemenis participated. Elections in 1997 yielded a strong GPC majority.
The constitution adopted in 1991, which was similar to North Yemen’s 1970 constitution, provided for a 301-member elected legislature, called the Council of Deputies. In addition to its legislative tasks, the legislature would select a five-member Presidential Council and vote on the composition and program of the cabinet. The Presidential Council would choose from its membership a president and vice president, and also nominate the prime minister. The members of the Council of Deputies would be selected for five-year terms, as would the president and vice president. In September 1994, at the end of the country’s civil war, the Council of Deputies voted to adopt major reforms to the unification constitution. The amended constitution declares Sharia (Islamic law) as the basis of all legislation and describes the economy as market-based. The reforms also abolished the five-member Presidential Council and stipulated that the presidency be decided by universal suffrage, with no one permitted to hold office for more than two terms. Ali Abdullah Saleh has been president since 1990.
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