Yemen is a presidential republic with a bicameral legislature. Under the constitution, an elected President, an elected 301-seat Assembly of Representatives, and an appointed 111-member Shura Council share power. The President is the head of state, and the Prime Minister is the head of government.
The constitution provides that the president be elected by popular vote from at least two candidates endorsed by at least fifteen members of the Parliament. The prime minister, in turn, is appointed by the president and must be approved by two thirds of the Parliament. The presidential term of office is seven years, and the parliamentary term of elected office is six years. Suffrage is universal for people age 18 and older but only Muslims may hold elected office.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh became the first elected President in reunified Yemen in 1999 (though he had been President of unified Yemen since 1990 and President of North Yemen since 1978). He was re-elected to office in September 2006. Saleh's victory was marked by an election that international observers judged to be "partly free", though the election was accompanied by violence, violations of press freedoms and allegations of fraud.
Parliamentary elections were held in April 2003, and the General People's Congress (GPC) maintained an absolute majority. There was a marked decrease from previous years in election-related violence.
The constitution calls for an independent judiciary. The former northern and southern legal codes have been unified. The legal system includes separate commercial courts and a Supreme Court based in Sana'a. Since the country is a Muslim state, Sharia is the main source of laws. Indeed, many court cases are debated according to the religious basis of law, and many judges are religious scholars as well as legal authorities. Unlike Saudi Arabia and other Islamic states, however, consumption of alcohol by non-Muslims is tolerated.
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