Second woman declares intention to make bid for presidency

A second woman confirmed on Monday that she will run for the country's highest political office in elections scheduled to be held in September.

“The time has come for the intellectuals to occupy the post [of president]," said Rashida al-Qaili, the second woman to declare an intention to run for president after Sumaya Ali Raja, who announced her candidacy in December.

Al-Qaili, a satirical columnist for the local independent broadsheet Al-Wasat – and whose articles have also appeared in the now-suspended Al-Shura newspaper – will stand as an independent. "I haven't a tribe or a party to support me, but I have my pen and my love for my country,” said al-Qaili. “I'm relying on the support of the community of intellectuals and journalists to whom I belong." She also claims the support of certain unnamed independent politicians and tribal chiefs.

The would-be contender is expected to unveil her electoral programme in June, and has promised a drastically different platform than those already announced by other prospective candidates. In a 13 March statement, al-Qaili said she wanted to “rescue the republican system from tyranny, rescue national unity from the threat of partition and secession, and rescue democracy from corruption”.

She also called on intellectuals and journalists to help her overcome the difficulties she expected to face in the contest.

In December, Ali Raja used an Arab women’s conference held in Sana – entitled, "From Words to Actions" – as a platform for announcing her intention to run for president, becoming the first woman to do so. "This is a unique opportunity to take part in the development of our country," she said. "Women in Yemen not only give birth to presidents: they also sweep, farm and teach – and now they want to become presidents."

There are currently only two females in the cabinet, in the ministries of human rights and social affairs, and the number of female candidates running for elections has fallen between 1993 and 2003 from 42 percent to 11 percent.

Recently there have been calls by women’s groups for a 30 percent quota for seats for females in the upcoming September local and presidential election.

Both Rashida al-Qaili and Sumaya Ali Raja will have to contend with strong opposition from the country's Islamist movements, in an already conservative country, which are generally opposed to female participation in national politics.