Saleh's parliament will determine Hadi's fate, and Yemen's

Saleh's parliament will determine Hadi's fate, and Yemen's
Parliament, dominated by former president Saleh's party, will decide whether to accept current-president Hadi’s resignation. This will determine the course of Yemeni politics, at least in the short term.
6 min read
24 January, 2015
Subaihi is likely to play a key role in politics in the future [Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty]

The resignation of Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has once again shuffled the political deck of cards in Yemen.

The Ansar Allah movement (known as the Houthis) apparently thought that they could simply impose their political agenda and appoint whoever they want in state posts, starting with the vice president. They are relying on their militias, deployed on the streets of Sanaa, which have become a figurative sword hanging over Hadi's head, and over the heads of anyone else who thinks of opposing them.

A leap into the unknown?

Although the decision to accept or reject Hadi's resignation has yet to be made, it is in many ways a leap into the unknown. This is especially true as Hadi's resignation came after the resignation of the government of Khaled Bahah, formed only a few weeks ago. Add to this the fact that talks between Hadi and UN Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar to persuade Hadi to reverse his decision have stalled.

Hadi tendered his resignation because he was incapable of performing his presidential responsibilities.

Pending the outcome of political consultations, the fate of Hadi's resignation is contingent upon a decision by the Yemeni parliament, chaired by Yahya al-Raie, a prominent leader of the General People's Congress (GPC), the majority party in parliament. This means that in a way Hadi's fate is in the hands of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the leader of the GPC.

Articles 115 and 116 of the Constitution define what should happen in the event of a presidential resignation. Article 115 stipulates that the president of the republic can submit a resignation, substantiated with reasons, to parliament, and a majority vote will decide whether the latter will accept it or not. According to the article, if the resignation is not accepted, the president has the right to resubmit the resignation within three months and the House must accept it.

Article 116 stipulates that if the presidential post becomes vacant or the president is incapable of carrying out the post's responsibilities, the speaker of parliament will temporarily assume the responsibilities of the presidency. If the House is dissolved, the government shall take responsibility for the president's tasks temporarily, instead of the speaker of parliament. According to the article, the president of the republic will be elected within a period not exceeding 60 days from the date of the first meeting of the new parliament.

Hadi tendered his resignation because he was incapable of performing his presidential responsibilities. He submitted his resignation to parliament on Thursday 22 January in accordance with the constitution. He did not submit it to the Houthis, the group that led the coup against him. In practical and legal terms, the ball is in the court of the GPC-dominated parliament. The parliament was itself besieged by Houthi gunmen yesterday.

According to two members of parliament who spoke to al-Araby al-Jadeed on condition of anonymity, leaders from the Houthis contacted members of parliament in an apparent attempt to court them, though the implicit threat was clear. The fate of Yemen in the next few days is contingent upon the measures the House of Representatives takes unless an armed side, be it the army or the Houthis, imposes another reality by force.

It was noteworthy that the House deferred the session designed to look into Hadi's resignation from Thursday until Sunday. The House is not supposed to take all this time to hold this session. There are many explanations on the reasons for this deferral. Some believe the session was postponed to convince as many MPs as possible to attend, including the MPs of the southern governorates from which Hadi comes, to secure a majority.

Some believe that the postponement was made for reasons of security. Others believe the House is giving Hadi a chance to reconsider his decision and withdraw his resignation. A political solution acceptable to all parties is imperative, and this solution would probably see Hadi resuming his duties and the Houthis letting that happen.

Because the GPC is a majority in parliament, and because Hadi is indeed unable to perform his tasks, it is not impossible that his resignation will be accepted. House Speaker Raie;s rejection of the resignation, announced Thursday, is being interpreted as a "moral" stand, no more, no less. The final decision will be that of parliament, not its speaker.

The Houthis had hoped Hadi would appoint a Houthi as vice president before announcing his resignation.

Now that the fate of Yemen is in the hands of the GPC-dominated parliament, it is expected the Houthis will find themselves forced either to appease the House or rebel against it. The first sign showing that the Houthis are not comfortable that the House is in control of the situation was when some Houthi leaders questioned the legitimacy of the House. The term of the House was extended one year ago as one of the results of the national dialogue and as part of a deal that also led to the extension of Hadi's term at the time. It is to be noted that the Houthis had hoped Hadi would appoint a Houthi group member as vice president before announcing his resignation so that the latter would eventually become the president. But this did not happen.

Should Hadi's resignation be accepted?

Politicians demand the House reject Hadi's resignation with the aim of preserving the national fabric and unity, although the Houthis insist the House should accept Hadi's resignation and form a presidential council instead.

According to al-Araby's sources, the Houthis are being blamed for dividing the country.

If the resignation is accepted, there are several possible scenarios for a post-Hadi Yemen.

Naturally, observers believe Hadi's resignation paves the way for previous agreements to be bypassed one way or another. It is likely the current constitution will remain in force and early elections will be held in accordance with its provisions, if force is not used to resolve the situation. This would cause a crack in the January coup alliance made up of the Houthis and Saleh. The Saleh-led GPC would push for early elections because it has a wide base of public support. The Houthi group, however, is not eager to hold early elections because it has already made gains through force, not through its a popular base of support.

There is also the likelihood the army will play a bigger role; it has stayed quiet since September. The most prominent army units left are the Reserve Brigades, formerly called the Republican Guard. Many of those are loyal to Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, son of the former president. The emergence of the so-called "Commission for Protecting the Army and Security" last month, however, indicates the army is eager to play a role in the future and that, contrary to rumours, it is neither loyal to nor under the control of the Houthis. The Houthis' acute awareness of the difference in power between it and the army will determine its decision to either confront the army or ally itself with it to share the post-Hadi political spoils.

Al-Araby has learned from various sources that consultations are under way to create a consensus for the appointment of Defence Minister Major General Mahmoud Salem al-Subaihi as head of the military or perhaps of the presidential council that many expect to be formed. Subaihi currently holds the highest military position after Hadi, and hails from the southern governorates. His selection might block any move toward the secession of the south, which could take place under the pretext that what happened in Sanaa was a coup by the northerners against Hadi, another southerner.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic website.