Yemen's parliament revives legitimacy of embattled government

Yemen's parliament revives legitimacy of embattled government
The internationally recognised parliament is back to life after four years of being out of work, ushering a major political development in the country.
5 min read
18 April, 2019
The internationally recognised government of President Hadi has been sustaining harsh blows for years [Getty]
On April 13, 138 parliament members assembled in the Yemeni city of Seyoun in the Hadramout province to hold the first parliamentary session since the war erupted in late 2014.

What made this session remarkable and paramount is the attendance of a considerable number of parliamentarians, including the presence of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

The four-year war and political stalemate has brought multiple state institutions to a standstill, including the parliament. Its members scattered with some remaining in Yemen while others fled the country as the Houthi rebels tightened their grip of the capital Sanaa and numerous other areas in Yemen's north.

But the recent session signifies that the parliament is now effective again and will play a positive role, at least in governing the Houthi-free areas – provided that the external players, particularly the Saudi-led Arab coalition, stops its unneeded intervention when it comes to managing the internal affairs of Yemen.

Over the last four years, the internationally recognised government has been sustaining harsh blows non-stop. Its image has been distorted while its popularity has radically declined. It has failed to maintain security, stability and rule of law in areas under its control. Moreover, it has not been efficient to provide basic services to civilians in addition to its slow progress in the battlefields.

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However, the recent resumption of the parliament means a dose of strength and a revival of the government legitimacy and authority. Nowadays, the prime minister is operating in Aden along with several ministers and the parliament will keep holding meetings in Seyoun to review and discuss the performance of the government. This is the first time since 2015 that the internationally recognised government of Yemen has scored such a political success.

Overcoming the power vacuum

The Yemeni parliamentarians act as representatives for the people of the country. In 2003, Yemen saw parliamentary elections nationwide. Since then, the parliament continues as the body which represents the people. The total number of parliamentarians is 301, out of whom, 34 have died.

Mohammed al-Ghabiri, a Yemeni political analyst, said the parliament is an important state body, and there exists a serious power vacuum without it.

"The absence of the parliament creates a power vacuum and it is a sign of divisions, leading to weakening the state authority at the regional and international level," said al-Ghabiri.

Al-Ghabiri indicated that holding the recent parliamentary sessions in Yemen's Seyoun is a positive turning point in favour of the internationally recognised government, adding that the state has become complete with re-invigorating the role of the parliament.

According to Abaad Studies and Research Center, the return of the parliament is "very important amid attempts to target the legitimate government and to delegitimise it by its enemies – the Houthis, the Southern Transitional Council and United Arab Emirates."

The Center pointed out that the return of the parliament is redefining the parties to the ongoing conflict as the legitimacy and coup.

Who can disturb the Yemeni parliament?

The return of the Yemeni parliament has taken an ample amount of time. It has not been an easy job and the continuity of parliamentary sessions is still an arduous task due to the volatile situation the country has been undergoing.

Days prior to the arrival of the parliamentarians in Seyoun, Saudi Arabia sent military units and Patriot batteries in preparation for potential attacks or suicide drones. This indicates that there is no safe area for the Yemeni government without the military support of the Saudi-led Arab coalition.

Although the Arab coalition seems to be serious in supporting the parliament, it remains unclear if this support will continue for long. If it wants to disrupt the operation of the parliament, it can do so while the Yemeni government can do nothing.

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The other source of disturbance is the southern separatists who have strong ties with United Arab Emirates. The parliament is convening in the south where the secessionist voices openly express their resentment of Hadi, his government and the parliament.

The ongoing relation between the UAE and the internationally recognised government cannot be described firm or good as their differences have been so wide to bridge. The former has been supporting the southern secessionists to undermine the authority of the latter in the south.

Thus, when the UAE becomes angry at or unhappy about the Yemeni parliament convening in the south, it would instruct the southern separatists to disrupt the situation, which could stop the parliament from holding sessions.

The last threat to the parliament convening in the south is the Houthis. Their threat can be confined to firing missiles or sending suicide drones to target the venue of the parliamentarians.

This week, the Arab coalition said it intercepted 11 Houthi drones over Seyoun of Hadramout province that has been hosting the parliamentary sessions. The Houthis denied conducting such an attack.

The return of the parliament is a victory for the president and the government, and it will be a victory to a considerable number of civilians in Yemen as long as this parliament performs its duty without disturbance from within or interference from outside.

The writer is a Yemeni journalist, reporting from Yemen, whose identity we are protecting for their security.

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