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September 19, 2006



Yes, we are casting out votes tomorrow! Not, only for a president - but electing legislative and local representatives too. It has been 'very interesting'! That's an undersatatement!

Philip Grant

An interesting analysis but I think we must always be careful not to assume that voters in any election, rigged or not, are perfectly rational. A Yemeni might hate Salih for all the reasons you outlined, and yet still prefer him to anyone else. When I was in Yemen earlier this year I had a friend like that, late twenties, very pious, educated, always criticising the government, who while certainly not actively involved in politics (and in fact heartily sick of it, in Yemen as in the wider Arab world) nonetheless described himself as an Islah supporter; yet I was struck once when discussing politics with him, just after Salih announced he was going to stand after all, by his vehemently insisting that this was good news for Yemen, as however bad Salih was, Yemenis were even more worried about what would come after him. You could summarise this as the "better the devil you know position". Admittedly this was back in late June, before the campaign had started, so things may have changed a lot in the interim, but I wonder how many Yemenis there are who are still thinking along these lines? I bet there are quite a few.


Marc: One thing I think is worth mentioning re Islah's participation (leadership, really) of the opposition campaign is that Shaykh al-Ahmar jumped ship and endorsed the Prez. In the 1999 presidential election, Islah as a party endorsed Salih and there was no opposition to speak of. As an Islah-watcher, I've been waiting to see if their participation in the Joint Meeting Parties would fall apart over this election, and there is good reason to consider this a bit of a litmus test of the opposition's institutional durability. What I see, instead, is that the fissures in the party may be getting more pronounced. With people like Muhammed Qahtan and the party's "political directorate" heavily tied to Bin-Shamlan, and rival party leaders like al-Ahmar (Saleh's tribal buddy and Islahi speaker of parliament) backing the incumbent, Islah is either (a) covering all the bases, or (b) deeply divided. My money's on (c) all of the above.

Philip: I'm laughing because I literally had this conversation in my Comparative Politics class this morning...I don't see any problem in assuming that voters are rational in the pursuit of what they value. I do see a problem in assuming that all people value the same things. Clearly, some value stability, predictability, graft, the devil you know, whatever...

While I share Marc's dim hope that Salih loses tomorrow, my pragmatic side hopes that Bin-Shamlan makes a real enough showing to give the opposition a better shot next time around.

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