Yemen: Repression in Freedom Square
The following video was shot on December 14 and shows protesters chanting, “No to injustice, no to tyranny,” prior to an assault by riot police in "Freedom Square" in the capital, Sana'a . The protest was organized by Women Journalists without Chains and brought together journalists, human rights activists as well as concerned citizens and opposition party members.
Hopes of an authentic Yemeni democracy suffered a blow last week when a controversial new election law was approved by Parliament. The move triggered a protest by opposition MP’s in parliament as well as civil activists outside the building, where they were attacked by riot police.Following Yemen’s 2006 presidential election, the Joint Meeting Parties, the coalition of major opposition parties dropped its challenges to the election result (which predictable returned President Saleh to his throne) in return for an agreement to revise the election laws. The ruling GPC and the JMP agreed to a reform agenda that was largely in line with recommendations from the EU. One topic explicitly included was changing the voting method from “first past the post” to a proportional representation or list method. The current system gives a strong advantage to the ruling party and over the years has diminished the ability of opposition parties, minorities, independents and women to gain seats. With no progress or meaningful negotiations concluded following the 2006 election, Yemen’s 2009 parliamentary elections were delayed until 2011 to allow time for meaningful negotiations. The two sides again failed to reach common ground or even hold prolonged discussions. The JMP termed the new law “a coup against democracy” and legal experts consider the law unconstitutional. The state’s unilateral decision to forsake consensus further undermines public trust in an already de-legitimized government and will increase instability.