Among the nations of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is the most populous, the poorest, and the most politically liberal. It is the only republic where sovereignty theoretically rests with its 16 million inhabitants, not with a monarch. The constitution promulgated in 1991 and amended in 1994 guarantees many basic rights and liberties to all adult citizens, including rights to vote, run for office, and join political parties. Since Yemeni unification in 1990, two rounds of contested, multiparty parliamentary elections in 1993 and 1997 involved women as well as men in the political process as voters, candidates, volunteers, and reporters. Yemenis enjoy relatively greater freedom of movement, expression, and association than most Arabs. Within the Yemeni political arena there is a wide range of legitimate political opinion, from the socialist left to the Islamist right, that cuts diagonally across the particularistic claims of region, tribe, sect, social status, or gender. Indeed, this political pluralism is more a property of society than of the state.

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Copyright © 1998 Lynne Reinner Publishers. This chapter first appeared in Political Liberalization & Democratization in the Arab World: Volume 2, Comparative Experiences.

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