The Constitutions of Unified Yemen

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.

Further Information

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