Yemen cabinet caves in to parliament threats

Yemen cabinet caves in to parliament threats
Khaled Bahah's government agrees not to impose UN sanctions on former president and Houthi leaders in return for parliamentary vote of confidence.

2 min read
19 December, 2014
The parliament had threatened to derail the new government [AFP/Getty]

Yemen's parliament has given the government of Khaled Bahah a vote of confidence after it agreed not to impose UN sanctions against the former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and two Houthi leaders.

The vote on Thursday afternoon came after extensive negotiations between the parliament, lead by Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC), and Bahah's government. The GPC had threatened to withdraw support for Bahah if the UN sanctions were observed.

Saleh was removed from power in a popular uprising in 2011. However, Yemen has since been plagued by insurgency and instability, culminating in the capital Sanaa and its public institutions being taken over by the Houthi rebel movement earlier this year.

The United States pushed for the sanctions at the UN. In its statement, the US said Saleh was "one of the primary supporters of the Houthi rebellion", and "behind attempts to cause choas". Abd al-Khaliq al-Houthi and Abu Ali al-Hakim, two Houthi leaders, were also cited in the UN sanctions.

More Houthi advances

The parliamentary deal comes a day after Houthi militants took over state facilities, most prominently the Central Bank of Yemen and the largest state-run energy company, Safer, in an apparent reaction to the sanction threats.

As part of the deal, Balah's government also said it would strive to protect infrastructure, such as oil pipelines, and remove Houthi checkpoints around many cities.

It agreed to reform the economy by the middle of next year, end corruption in state institutions, and improve security. Some of these pledges will anger the Houthis, especially the removal of checkpoints.

     The US said Saleh was one of the primary supporters of the Houthi rebellion and behind attempts to cause choas.

Bahah told parliament he was committed to the recommendations.

"Our top priority is to establish a safe and stable atmosphere and then put the national economy into motion, which is the best way to regain the trust of Yemenis," he said. 

He specified key targets: securing peace talks, ending the recession, boosting oil exports and improving basic services for Yemenis such as education, health, electricity and water.

Despite Saleh's removal from the presidency, the GPC still controls Yemen's parliament. The last parliamentary elections were held in April 2003, when the GPC took 238 out of 301 seats. Elections were meant to be held in 2009 but the parliament's term was extended.

The current president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, in November nominated a "unity government" led by Bahah which contained elements of the Houthi movement.

Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia, are withholding aid from Yemen due to the ascendency of the Houthi movement, whose members are Shia.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.