Yemen is in the midst of considerable civil unrest and the Government of Yemen has lost effective control of parts of the country and some major cities. A new constitution has been suggested by President Saleh and by those calling for his departure.
The Republic of Yemen was formed on 22 May 1990 upon the unification of North Yemen and South Yemen . North Yemen (The Yemen Arab Republic) – independent from the Ottoman Empire in 1918 – had been a more traditional Arab Islamic state since. South Yemen (The People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen) – independent from Britain since 1967 – had been a socialist state. There have been 3 constitutions since unification – introduced in 1991, 1994 and 2001.
The 1991 constitution stated in Article 3 that shari’a is the main source of legislation. This was amended in the 1994 constitution (and the amendment preserved in the 2001 constitution) to read “shari’a is the source of all legislation”.
Since 1999 the President has been directly elected. Ali Abdullah Saleh has been the only President since unification (initially as Chairman of the Presidency Council and post 1994 as President). The Presidential term is 7 years and the last election was in 2006.
The last Council of Representatives elections should have taken place in April 2009. They were postponed by 2 years – a period that has now expired.
The law making process has changed over time. Under the 1991 constitution, laws were made by the Council of Representatives or during parliamentary recess by the Presidential Council under Article 95. In fact most laws during the first decade after unification were made by the Presidential Council (and post 1994 by the President) using this ‘recess’ provision. Subsequent (post 2001) revision of the constitution attempted to give greater law making capacity to the Council of Representatives.
- The Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law is an excellent and overpriced resource published by Brill for the Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law at the University of London. Dating back to the early 1990s and now in its 15th volume, YIMEL contains an annual update of legal developments in each state in the region and national and international legal materials. Initially edited by His Honour Professor Judge Eugene Cotran and Professor Chibli Mallat, it is now edited by HHPJ Cotran and Dr Martin Lau of SOAS Law Department and Essex Court Chambers.
- IFES Briefing Paper, June 2011 – Transition in Yemen: An overview of constitutional and electoral provisions