The General People’s Congress (GPC), which has been established and headed by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, will celebrate in this year the thirtieth anniversary of its establishment. Certainly, this event will come at the time the party goes through the most difficult political test faced over the last three decades. This party has been established in 1982 in north Yemen, as a political coalition of the political forces and the independents who agreed upon the National Pact, as an ideological and political methodology for governance, and agreed upon the General People’s Congress as a political tool, through which they apply thoughts of the National Pact pursue its principles.
At the same time, establishment of the GPC was a national need to be objective equivalent to the Yemeni Socialist Party which ruled the South of Yemen. Tripoli Agreement of Unity, signed in 1972 between presidents of the two parts of Yemen Judge Abdul Rahman al-Iryani and Salem Rubayie Ali , stipulated the establishment of a joint political party to rule the unified Yemeni state. This required the leadership of the northern part to think about establishing a political party, though the Constitution of the North prohibited that time the political action, while the political parties were practicing their work apparently without having public buildings or publications.
As attempt was made to establish a political party in the term of President Judge Iryani named (Yemeni Union), but its regulatory structure was not completed, and all attempts stopped until the establishment of the GPC, which though came up during the term of the late President Ibrahim al-Hamdi. Along the pre-Unity years, the political forces were competing to win the most possible number of seats of the Permanent (Central) Committee of the GPC, through the party did not dominate the political life as was the case with the Socialist Party in the South.
In the final negotiations of the declaration of restoring Unity of Yemen, the Yemeni Socialist Party insisted to overcome the item in the Tripoli Agreement which stipulated the establishment of one political party, and instead followed the political and partisan multiplicity in the new state, and this was what really happened. In the day following the declaration of the Yemeni Unity, the Yemenis found themselves in front of a new pattern in the political life, which they were not familiar with along the past decades.
Amid the succession of the announcement of establishment of political parties, the GPC –which became a partner in ruling the new state of Yemen along with the Yemeni Socialist Party- found itself in front of the first serious challenge. It was the challenge of turning into a real political party especially after several political trends including Muslim Brotherhood, Ba’ath Party, and some Nasirists and left-wing trends broke away and announced themselves as political parties away from the GPC. The GPC’s first test came in the first parliamentary elections which was held in 1993 under the political multiplicity, and it could get 123 seats out of 301.
That result was certainly the outcome of an exceptional effort made by President of the Republic “that time” and Head of the GPC Ali Abdullah Saleh and his direct supervision of the electoral process of his party. During this election, Saleh used his political weight and his ability to attract the social figures, let alone the exploitation of all the state capabilities, which the GPC shared with its bitter ally that time, the Yemeni Socialist Party.
The GPC had always the “electing job” in Saleh’s point of views and no more; he did not want it to be a real political party, as is the case with the other parties in the Yemeni arena, all of which are in the opposition. This could be a weakness point in a fresh democracy, but Saleh did not want that the GPC to turn into a handcuff on his decisions and political directions, in case the party actually became a ruling party. But GPC never ruled as is the case in other Arab countries; for instance, its Permanent (Central) Committee or its Public Committee “Political Department” had never chosen the Prime Minister or members of the cabinet.
Therefore, the GPC has never turned into an ideological or iron party. This could be to the party’s credit, even if came at the expense of its organizational situations exposed to serious challenges in the coming period. Such challenges come while its head and founder is no more president of the republic, who was always keen to get a parliamentary majority since 1997, up to 75 % of the parliament seats. He used to take advantage of his charisma, influence and his domination over all power joints through waving at various interests. Although he could get a natural majority exceeding the half of the number of the seats reflecting its real size, he was always keen to capture take exclusive possession of three quarters of the seats, considering it as the required percentage to make amendments on many of the Constitutions Articles, that do not require a referendum.
Today, the GPC will find itself face to face with the most important and serious challenges after its founder head has to give up leadership of the party in favor of the new-elected President Abdu Rabu Mansur Hadi. It is impossible that President Hadi accept a senior official to him in the party that he holds its First Deputy and General Secretary. It is also impossible that the political forces and the popular revolutionary forces, that have overthrown Saleh out of power, to accept Saleh as a party in the national dialogue or remain chairman of the GPC, which holds half seats of the National Reconciliation Government.
Certainly, the GPC will not bear any more splits in its ranks, after it had lost quite a few of his parliamentary bloc during the public revolution. Therefore, the party would see that it should make a radical change, starting with dismissing Saleh of its leadership and ending with the dismissal of all its extremist members and leaders, considering them as direct cause provoking the street against Saleh’s regime. Those extremists continued along the revolution to exercise their provocations and prevent signing the GCC Initiative and its Operational Mechanism. These extremists today are going on playing their negative role against all procedures and decisions made by President Hadi and the National Reconciliation Government to normalize the situations and restoring security and stability. They keep raising political tension in the parliament, government or the public life in general.
It is, then, the responsibility of those moderate in the GPC, and they are the majority, to speed up to save the party from the suffocation it faces due to the insistence of those extremists to make it no more than a political cover to the continuation of Saleh and his family in the security and military positions.