The State Society Relations in Yemen

The State Society Relations in Yemen

The state society relation in the Middle East is conspicuous if we take a look at the present regimes. This relation has been rooted in the region through history and it is shaped according to the past changes that continuously took place in the Arab world. Most Arab states, in the form we know them today, were created during the last century and their boundaries were determined, sometimes quite arbitrarily, by imperial powers. Successive Arab governments have had to grapple with the resulting problems, attempting to weld various tribal, have sought to achieve this by sweeping diversity under the carpet. To shed more light on this notion, detailed and accurate description is needed, providing explicit explanation of the state and the society individually with a reference to Yemen .

It is unfair to say that the state in Yemen is weak and it sounds incredible to say that it is strong when compared to the society.How can we determine what kind of state society relation do we have in Yemen then?.In fact, What determines the strength of the state is its ability to penetrate the society, regulate its societal relationship and extract resources and appropriate them in a determined way. The state in Yemen doesn’t have these elements and its inability to control the society has been exposed recently due to the ongoing terrible situations in Yemen. The power of the state in Yemen does not exceed the urban areas and its hardly exercised in these areas. In the tribal areas, where tribes exist in multitudes, tribal rules and norms are implemented.

One might say that Saleh is rolling Yemen with a firm hand and he has a full dominance over the country because he has been on office for thirty years and this long period is a clear -cut evidence that the state is stronger than the society. In fact ,Saleh is a diplomatic man .He recognizes the impossibility to operate fully in a society made up of pluralism (Islamic organizations and tribes).He ,then adopts a policy of attracting the elites of these groupings to guarantee the survival of his state. He co-opts them in position where they can work for his interest and take advantage of the loyalty of their people. He would not venture sensitive positions for them, those which are now co-opted by his clansmen, but other ones which can feed but not lead to any power.

The pluralism of the society in Yemen can empower it to overthrow the state if it is directed in a proper way. The tribes are well-armed and they have the ability to run a war against the state when it malpractices the law. Obviously, the pluralism in Yemen is limited pluralism. Saleh operates within a patronage system using clientelism ; for example, he uses his own tribe, Sanhan, to staff many important posts in the state and military apparatus, yet his regime is not tribal as such. While Saleh must make concessions to the pluralism of society and must be careful to at least appear consultative, especially given the heavily armed nature of Yemeni society, he has not been forced to accept true power sharing with society. In fact he seems to be extending his power. He was able to increase the number of seats won by his party, the General People’s Congress (GPC) [9], in the 1997 parliamentary elections, in 1999 he was re-elected as President, challenged only by a member of his own party, and in 2001 he succeeded in amending the constitution in the way he desired despite opposition from Islah and the socialists. Tribes and Islamic groups have often acted outside the ‘rules’ of the state but this has not translated into a challenge to the state. One must distinguish between relatively low-level protest, which may be violent, against state behavior and real opposition to the state and the regime itself that can reduce the power of the president.

In a nutshell, the state society relation in Yemen is just a matter of competition for the control of the resources and of course Saleh is the winner but he distributes them over the elites of the groupings to make sure that they are in his part. The state around Saleh is not ‘strong’ yet neither is society strong. It is the personal nature of his rule that has become the dominant element, above the plural character of society and above the weak institutions of the state. Saleh is limited by the fact that there are sources of loyalty within Yemen other than the state, but these other elites have not successfully used this plurality to reduce his power. The argument here is that the Yemeni system is a result or a variety of factors, including a plural society but also affected by the nature of patrimonial relationships in the country and the nature of political deals that have been made by elites.
1-Omar Daair, Authoritarian rule in a plural society:
the Republic of Yemen
2-Ahmed Abdelkareem Saif, Yemen: state weakness and society alienation