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Pretty dry stuff, huh?
Sorry about that. Just trying to stay up to speed.
Most sources of hard information tend to be like that. This one I found via the Aardvark. Some snips follow.
But throughout the winter and spring, the forces of dissent gathered momentum. On February 26, Mubarak appeared to relent, pledging to adjust the Egyptian constitution to provide for a multi-candidate presidential election rather than simply another rubber-stamping. But when it came time to approve the amendment, the Egyptian parliament, which is dominated by Mubarak's ruling party, came up with a set of rules that all but lock in the status quo. Only parties recognized by the government can field a candidate, meaning that the powerful but outlawed Muslim Brotherhood cannot compete, and independent hopefuls are required to collect 300 signatures from members of local councils also controlled by regime loyalists.
One would expect the Bush administration to pounce on this transparent rigging of the system. The Kifaya movement certainly did. On the day of the parliamentary vote, Kifaya demonstrators labeled the measure "theatrics" and the movement's leaders published a statement accusing the ruling party of "aborting people's hopes for freedom and democracy." A week beforehand, Bush had seemed to agree, saying that the Egyptian election should proceed "with rules that allow for a real campaign."
But now the US has backtracked. When the Egyptian prime minister came to Washington, Bush did not publicly dress him down. First Lady Laura Bush even called the democracy-limiting measure "a very wise and bold step" as she visited the Pyramids during her recent Middle East tour. "You know that each step is a small step, that you can't be quick."
While the government has tried to downplay the conflict -- Salih declared it "practically overcome" in mid-April 2005 -- various media and eyewitness accounts attest that people were still being killed in significant numbers until at least mid-May. Although accurate figures are impossible to obtain, the government claimed in May that the number of soldiers and civilians killed in two rounds of fighting had been 525, with 2,708 wounded. The real figure is likely to be much higher than this, and does not include the number of rebels killed. Amnesty International reports that civilian targets have been attacked by "security forces reportedly [using] heavy weaponry, including helicopter gunships." A large number of houses have been destroyed during the conflict, some intentionally and others as a result of indiscriminate shelling.
Looks to me like you gotta be careful when you start talking about freedom and democracy. First thing you know, kids will start believing you and start speaking their minds. Then they start getting out of hand and authorities who have been managing them from birth are faced with one crisis after another. What's an imam to do?
Revival of the imamate is an idea which is rejected by Yemen's Sunni majority and many Zaydi tribespeople, and which stands in contradiction to the goal of the 1962 revolution to weaken the age-old power of the sayyids over other Zaydis who are not members of the religious elite. As a secular former military officer and a Zaydi tribesman who is not a sayyid, President Salih embodies that goal. In 1990, Zaydi religious leaders, including figures now involved in Yemen's two Zaydi political parties, held a conference in Sanaa, where it was declared that the leader of the state was not required to be a descendant of the Prophet and agreed that "the fair and the strong" should rule Yemen. The declaration was, of course, issued under pressure from Salih.
There is some ambiguity in the Huthis' denials of aspirations to bring the imamate back. Badr al-Din was quoted in the March 9 al-Wasat to the effect that the imamate is the "most preferable" system of government for Yemen if the "true and legitimate" imam is present. "Any just believer" can rule the country, he said, if the imam is not present. When asked whether he considered Salih a legitimate ruler, Badr al-Din declined to answer, telling the interviewer: "Do not put me in a difficult position." It is this broader objection to the regime, rather than talk of the imamate, that resonates with disenchanted Yemenis.
Rumors of even larger price increases ran rampant leading up to the subsidy removal. But the regime undertook no public information campaign to dispel them, perhaps because they did not wish to call attention to diesel prices at all. According to a well-informed ex-parliamentarian from the ruling General People's Congress (GPC), high-ranking regime officials smuggled large quantities of subsidized diesel from Yemen's southern ports to the Horn of Africa, transferring at least 20 to 30 percent of the public money used to pay for the subsidies into their own pockets. Concrete evidence of the extent of smuggling is impossible to obtain, but the rapid increase in Yemen's diesel imports makes a circumstantial case.
Though Yemen has its own small oilfields, 70 percent of the diesel consumed per annum must be brought in from elsewhere. While the amounts of other commodities imported remained fairly constant between 1998 and 2003, imports of "petroleum and petroleum products" (the vast majority of which is diesel) leapt from 6.44 percent of all imports in 1998 to 14.86 percent in 2003. The fact that all other categories of imports (including equipment that uses diesel such as power-generating machinery and transport vehicles) actually decreased slightly in this period, combined with the fact that Yemen has no strategic civil or military diesel reserve, make smuggling the only explanation for the increase, or at least a great deal of it. In any event, much of the Yemeni public is convinced that the regime is smuggling diesel. As Islah member Nasser Arman asked some months before the subsidy was lifted, "When the government admits that the subsidies on the oil derivatives go to the pockets of smugglers, why doesn't it audit even one of them?"