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Yemen, a Country Without a President and Government

A telling cartoon about Yemen by Amjad Rasmi where the traditional Yemeni dagger (Janbiyah) worn by Yemenis is an overturned question mark instead.

A telling cartoon about Yemen by Amjad Rasmi where the traditional Yemeni dagger (Janbiyah) worn by Yemenis is an inverted question mark instead.

Yemen, often described as a “failed state” or “on the brink“, has become a country without a president and a government. In addition to observers, Yemenis living inside the country are also perplexed by the latest dramatic developments unfolding in Yemen, which resulted in the swift takeover of its capital city, Sanaa, by the Houthi militia. The Houthi militia also took over the state media, the Presidential Palace and residence, and the Prime Minister's residence, blockading government buildings and taking over a military installation, ultimately resulting in the resignation of the Prime Minister, cabinet and president on Thursday, January 20th.

Yemeni journalist and head of Yemen Polling Center, Hafez Albukari tweeted:

After capturing Amran mid-summer, the Houthis, a rebel group reportedly backed by Iran and who claim their movement is against corruption and embezzlement, took over Sana'a and the rest of the country last September and eventually became the de facto power in Yemen. With the signing of the Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA), a power sharing deal which aimed to bring the Houthis and Southern separatists into a more inclusive government, the president was required to appoint a Prime Minister who was “neutral, without any party affiliations” within 3 days and to form a new cabinet within 30 days. However, finding a Prime Minister who would fit that criteria and be approved by all factions was a challenge.

Hisham Al-Omeisy sarcastically tweeted:

The President initially nominated Ahmed Awad Ben Mubarak, who was the Secretary General of the National Dialogue Conference (NDCYE). However, ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his Party, the General People's Congress (GPC), along with the Houthis, objected. Ben Mubarak who was President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi's chief of staff was kidnapped by the Houthis last Saturday, January, 17th and remains so until the writing of this post. Khaled Mahfoudh Bahah, who was at that time Yemen's envoy to the United Nations and served as oil minister, was appointed instead as Prime Minster on October 13th, 2014 and was welcomed by the Houthis. After nominations and rejections, the newly appointed cabinet which included young names and four ministerial posts assigned to women, was a promising mixture which brought optimism and hope nevertheless.

Yet the PNPA, and the best cabinet formed since 2011, did not survive for long. The Houthis militancy and never ending demands drove away initial sympathisers as the vision of a civil and less corrupt Yemen faded away. Instead of honouring their part of the agreement by withdrawing, the Houthis spread more militias and road blocks across Sana'a and kidnapped the president's chief of staff demanding changes in the draft constitution and more power, which led to the complete takeover of Sanaa in last week's events.
Waddah Othman tweeted what the distorted meaning of partnership was according to the Houthis:

A partnership is you implementing for me all the needs I want but regarding your needs we you can sit and discuss them later

Despite the international and Gulf media hyped fear that AQAP (Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula) or Iran might take over Yemen, Yemenis main concern is who will fill the power vacuum in their country.
Haykal Bafana, dismissed that threat with his tweet:

Gregory Johnson, author of “The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America's War in Arabia” supported that by saying:

He added:

Many in Yemen question the Houthis’ intentions and their sudden rise to power – their being a minority group yet being able to swiftly gain control over cities across Yemen, raid state institutions, sack public officials, eventually bringing the government to its knees. What appears undisputed is that the Houthis are not acting alone.

Osamah Al-Rawhani wonders:

Abubakr Al-Shami hints at Saleh's involvement:

Afrah Nasser, a Yemeni Journalist and blogger living in Sweden, points it out clearily:

Many cannot answer the question of who will lead the country, and there is a fear of a possible scenario where the former regime returns through a younger facade, especially after ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh called for early elections, perhaps paving the way for his elder son. He was seen as the mastermind pulling the strings in last week's dramatic events.

According to the Yemen Times (quoting Nadia Al-Sakkaf), Yemen's Minister of Information in Bahah's government, courageously tweeted updates during the Houthi take-over:

Under the current constitution — the draft constitution remains under debate — if the president is harmed and unable to continue, or if he steps down, the head of Parliament is to ascend to the position. The current head of Parliament, Yahya Al-Rayi, is a high-ranking member of the GPC and was injured in a 2011 attack on the Presidential Palace.

However, the mandate of the current Parliament, which was elected in 2003, was due to expire after six years, in 2009. Under an agreement, the elections were postponed two years. Elections were due in 2011, but were postponed again following the 2011 uprising. The GPC holds 238 out of 301 seats in Parliament.

With Hadi’s resignation the initiative would no longer be in effect, according to Al-Sakkaf, and Parliament’s extended mandate would be dissolved, removing the possibility of Al-Rayi ascending to the presidency.

Jeb Boone, an American journalist who was living in Yemen during the 2011 uprising which ousted Saleh, commented:

If you are still confused about what is happening in Yemen, you can read satirical blogger Karl Sharo's simplified explanation

Over the weekend there were demonstrations refusing Hadi's resignation and against the Houthis in Sanaa, Taiz, Ibb, Hodeidah, and Al-Baydha, while there were other demonstrations demanding secession in the southern provinces and calling for severing ties with Sana'a. Yet Yemen is not only facing a political vacuum, but also a looming humanitarian disaster which is currently being overlooked as pointed out by Oxfam.

Infographic by IRIN showing the Humanitarian challenges facing Yemen.

Infographic by IRIN showing the Humanitarian challenges facing Yemen.

Yemen's parliament was scheduled to hold an emergency session on Sunday to discuss Hadi's resignation or form a presidential council to run the country until the elections take place. However, the session was cancelled without setting a new date.

Despite the uncertainty looming ahead, Yemenis are resilient people always looking at the bright side, as Abubakr Al-Shamahi tweeted:

Mohammed Al-Assadi also added:

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