Yemen Politics - President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi - 2012-2015
Violence continued, in part because the crisis had reinvigorated various factions, including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The GCC initiative signed by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, his party the General Peoples Congress (GPC), and a coalition of six opposition parties, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) provided for a political settlement and transfer of power on November 23, 2011. A government of national accord was formed in December 2011 on the basis of a (50-50) power-sharing agreement between the GPC and the JMP. According to the initiative and its implementation mechanism, formation of a government launched a two-stage transitional period: the first stage from formation of the government until the election of a new president; the second two-year stage from when the new president took office.
In December 2011 a new parliament was sworn in and in February 2012, a presidential election was held with only one candidate on the ballot, former Vice-President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The February 21 presidential election was deemed free and relatively fair. Voter turnout was high, including among youth and women. There were some concerns that the election served as a referendum on one party and one candidate rather than a fair democratic election among multiple candidates.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was sworn in on 25 February 2012 and on 27 February 2012 former President Saleh officially resigned from his post. Unlike Egypt, Yemen’s military lacked the capability and legitimacy to act as a viable transitional power. The Yemeni political and social landscape is teeming with tribal leaders and Islamist groups that had the arms and the power to turn the situation into an all-out civil war.
President Hadi continued to face protests and violence. Protesters demanded that President Hadi work to remove Saleh family and loyalists from positions or power, and there was anger over the immunity granted to Saleh by the new parlaiment as part of the Gulf Cooperation Council deal. President Hadi's new government did remove some Saleh family and loyalists in early 2012 from positions of leadership in the military. In addition, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and its new affiliate, Ansar Al-Sharia, continued to attempt to unseat the established government, taking advantage of the continued instability in the country.
The transitional president of Yemen, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, worked to bring together the various factions in Yemen for the Conference of National Dialogue starting in mid-November 2012. The dialogue, expected to last six months, was intended to address the range of issues relating to the transition to a "civil state". The dialogue was supposed to include drafting a new constitution for the country, and to prepare the way for Presidential and Parliamentary elections in February 2014. If the dialogue failed, civil war was a probable outcome.
In Yemen, like in many Arab Spring countries, the revolution’s center of gravity shifted from the popular revolts in Sana'a’s Change Square to quiet boardrooms across the capital, where nominally-elected political elites are guiding the beleaguered country through the democratic reform process. However, in contrast to other revolutionary struggles around the Middle East and North Africa, Yemen's political transition is being driven by an experimental regional and international effort to stabilize the geopolitically sensitive hotspot in the Arabian Peninsula. The Saudi-brokered, US and UN-backed Gulf country initiative has achieved progress toward its stated goals of restructuring the military and government in preparation for multiparty elections in early 2014.
The law mandates that political parties be national organizations that cannot restrict their membership to a particular region, tribe, religious sect, class, or profession. The General People’s Congress party did not exclude adherents of any religion from its membership. The Islamist Islah party, the dominant member of the Joint Meetings Party (JMP) coalition, required that a member be “committed" to Islamic teachings. The JMP itself did not impose a religious test. Al-Rashad, the country’s Salafi political party, required members to support its Islamist platform. Members of the small al-Haq and al-Umma parties represented adherents of Zaydi Islam. There were other minor political parties said to be Islamist in nature, although it was not clear if they restricted their membership to Muslims.
During 2012, the implementation of the 50-50 power sharing agreement outlined in the GCC initiative allowed a range of political parties to organize and operate without undue limitation. Although instances of harassment of political party members were reported in the media, parties for the most part operated without restriction or outside interference. The constitution prohibits the establishment of parties that are contrary to Islam, “oppose the goals of the country’s revolutions," or violate the country’s international commitments.
Although the the General People’s Congress Party, or GPC, had been the dominant party since unification in 1990, the power sharing agreement and ascendency of the Islah Party, the major “opposition" party in the JMP, began to erode the GPC’s influence. New political parties formed in the wake of the 2011 uprising, some apparently testing the constitutional prohibition against sectarian parties. The Rashad Party, representing Salafi conservative Islamists was formed and officially recognized in March. The Umma Party, representing moderate Zaydi Shias, also was recognized during the year. In addition the Watan Party, Liberal Party, and Arab Spring Party also were formed and recognized during the year, representing various youth and women’s groups seeking a voice in the political process.
Tribalism distorted political participation in previous years and still had an impact, influencing the composition of parliament and various ministries within the central government. Observers noted that elections and positions in government ministries sometimes were based on tribal affiliation. Patriarchal systems dominated in tribal areas, providing some tribal leaders with the reported ability to influence other tribal members’ votes.
The so-called “southern question" was considered by many to be the greatest challenge. In only five years, the Southern Movement or Hirak, based out of the southern port city of Aden, has transformed itself from a simple alliance of disgruntled workers from the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) into a formidable, although divided, political bloc whose more radical elements are calling for nothing short of secession from the “northern" government in Sanaa. Internal divisions among southerners in general has been a sensitive topic for both the committee and the Yemeni population at large.
Another major obstacle to the plan for a unified Yemen lay north of the capital in Saada governorate, which borders Saudi Arabia. There, a Zaidi Shi’ite movement, known as Al-Huthi, has been beating back government forces for control of the territory for most of the past decade. Last year’s anti-government revolts created an opening for the rebels not only to solidify their stronghold in Saada but to expand southward into the capital. President Hadi has routinely accused the Huthis of accepting Iranian support aimed at destabilizing the transition process. And the group continues to lambast what it perceives to be American and Saudi meddling in Yemeni affairs. Its caustic slogan, “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse Upon the Jews, Victory to Islam," has flooded Sana'a.
President Hadi, for his part, had insisted that he would relinquish his post in February 2014, in an apparent gesture to his domestic audience and the international community that the days of power grabs in Yemen have given way to the rule of law. President Hadi has made commitments to respond to citizens’ grievances. For example, in January 2013, he established two committees to address land disputes and resolve cases of early dismissal or retirement of civil, security, and military personnel in the southern provinces, where grievances have persisted since the civil war in 1994.
Yemen continued to be plagued by frequent kidnappings, which have traditionally been used as a means for tribes to pressure the government to accede to their demands for resources or improved services. A government crackdown in recent years has reduced the number of kidnappings however. Investment projects outside the capital often succeed or fail solely based on the strength of relations with the surrounding tribes. Tribes frequently hijack vehicles belonging to foreign companies in order to pressure the central government to provide additional social services in the area. Attacks on oil pipelines are common in Yemen. These types of attacks occur most frequently in oil exploration and production areas, including, but not limited to, the outlying governorates of Marib and Shabwah. Tribes in these regions claim they are not getting their fair share of economic activity in their areas, and investors should be very sensitive to their need to build strong and lasting community relations. The provision of community-based services, such as healthcare and education, can contribute to protecting investments in isolated areas.
In addition to AQAP, other destabilizing elements were active in Yemen. For example, the Houthi tribe based in northern Yemen is another security challenge. Similarly, in January 2013, the US ambassador to Yemen stated that Iran was destabilizing the region by assisting secessionists in southern Yemen. As of November 2012, the US State Department described the threat level in Yemen as “extremely high" due to terrorist activities and civil unrest. As indicators of the continuing tenuous security environment in Yemen, State noted the mob attack on the US embassy compound in September 2012, the murders of several US citizens in 2012, a growing trend in violent crime, and continuing piracy near Yemen’s shores.
The Conference of National Reconciliation struggled with demands by separatists from what was South Yemen, which merged with North Yemen in 1990. A group of separatists led by Mohammed Ali Ahmed, a former interior minister, quit the talks in November 2013, dimming prospects that the conference might produce a new constitution in time for the elections originally expected to be held in February 2014.
On 27 November 2013 the UN Security Council pledged to support the Government’s efforts to rebuild the economy and promote national dialogue while warning all those intent on derailing the exercise that it is ready to consider “further measures in response to any actions by individuals or parties that are aimed at disrupting the transition process." The Council also welcomed the Yemeni Government’s efforts to safeguard security, “including the National Dialogue Conference which has generated a peaceful, inclusive and meaningful dialogue about the country’s future amongst diverse actors, including youth, women, civil society representatives, the Houthi Movement and the Hiraak Southern Movement." The Council futher emphasized the importance of concluding it “as soon as possible" to move to constitutional drafting and electoral preparations, as the next steps in the transition.
Yemen's prime minister resigned September 21, 2014 as the government and Shiite opposition members were poised to sign a peace agreement after a week of intense clashes around the capital. Mohamed Basindawa stepped down amid reports that Houthi rebels had taken over several government buildings without resistance. In a resignation letter to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the outgoing leader said he was leaving to pave the way for the formation of a national unity government.
Representatives of the main political parties, including a wing of the southern separatist Herak group, the Houthis and the Islamist Islah party signed the accord. The agreement called for the formation of a government of technocrats within one month. Under the deal, Hadi would also appoint advisers from the Shi'ite Ansarullah rebels and southern separatists within three days.
A showdown between the Houthis and President Abd-Rabbu Mansour forced Prime Minister-designate Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, whose appointment on 07 October 2014 under a power-sharing deal signed in September had angered Houthi leaders, to turn down the post.
On 13 October 2014 Yemen's president appointed Khaled Bahah, the country's envoy to the United Nations, as prime minister. The move was welcomed by the Shi'ite Muslim Houthi group which controlled the capital Sana'a.
Yemen's political factions, including Shi'ite Muslim rebels who control the capital, signed an agreement 01 November 2014 to allow the president and prime minister to form a new government. The deal called on all sides to ask President Abed Rabbu Mansour Hadi and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah to form a "competent national government" committed to human rights and neutrality in national affairs.
Yemen President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi resigned 22 January 2015, throwing the country deeper into chaos days after Houthi rebels battled their way into his presidential palace. Hadi submitted his resignation to parliament after being pressured to make further concessions to the rebels, saying he had reached a “deadlock" in talks with the militant group who rule the capital and had confined him to his home.
Yemen's powerful Shi'ite rebels finalized their takeover of the country 06 February 2015. The Houthi's revolutionary committee would chose an interim national assembly, replacing the old parliament. The new 551-members assembly would chose a five member presidential council to govern the county.
A Saudi-led military coalition entered the conflict in March 2015, bombing Houthi targets and obliterating entire Yemen communities. The Yemeni economy would collapse without the financial aid provided by neighboring Saudi Arabia. The country would become a failed state the day it was unable to pay salaries to its public service employees. Saudi Arabia would not be willing to pour more money into Yemen if it is controlled by the Houthis. Iran provded the finances needed for the Houthis to gain control.
On April 03, 2016 Yemen President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi dismissed his prime minister and vice president, Khaled Bahah, in a major government shakeup ahead of United Nations-brokered peace talks with Iran-backed Houthi militants later in themonth. Hadi replaced Bahah with politically powerful army General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar as the embattled government's new vice president. He also appointed lawmaker Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr as prime minister. The president offered no public explanations for the moves by early Monday. But the moves likely reflected differences between Hadi and Bahah over tactics and strategies for ending the country's protracted civil war. Unlike the more hardline Hadi, analysts have described Bahah as favoring a political settlement to the conflict, which erupted in September 2014.
Possibly as many as oen hundred thousand Yemeni demonstrators backing Shi'ite Houthi rebels marched 20 August 2016 in the rebel-held capital, Sana'a, in a show of support for a controversial new governing council already opposed by the United Nations and many Western governments. Organizers also billed the march as a rally of support for former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Shi'ite leader driven from power in 2012 after ruling for more than three decades.
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