I read the “Chart on National Elections in the Middle East” (MER 209) with keen interest, having worked for some time on the Yemeni electoral and political systems. I noticed a factual error regarding the Yemeni executive and legislative systems, which I would like you to correct. The last line of the chart indicates that the Consultative Council is part of the National Assembly. As a matter of fact, the Consultative (or Advisory) Council is not a second chamber of the Yemeni parliament and therefore has no legislative power. It is also not a new institution (as is sometimes stated in the Yemeni press), but was established in 1979 in the former Yemen Arab Republic.
The Consultative Council was mentioned in one of the unity agreements in 1990, but was not mentioned in Yemen’s constitution until 1994. Even though the Consultative Council is mentioned in the constitution of 1994 (Article 125), in the section entitled “The Executive Authority,” the Council has no executive power. Recently there have been attempts to make the Consultative Council into a second chamber, but that will need to pass through Parliament and will also need a referendum to change the 1994 constitution (Article 156). Therefore, the Yemeni political system currently has only one chamber, the elected 301-member Majlis al-Nuwwab.
Members of the Consultative Council are appointed by the president, and the Council currently constitutes a mechanism by which the president can coopt and accommodate individuals who have not been elected to Parliament, yet have political influence. If this Council were ever to become a second chamber — without changing its structure — the political influence of the elected parliament might be reduced to zero. In my view, this would constitute a serious defeat for parliamentary politics in Yemen.
Free University of Berlin