Yemen Parliament Members Loyal to Hadi Hold First Meeting

(Bloomberg) -- Members of Yemen’s parliament loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi convened Saturday for the first time since a civil war broke out in 2015. 

The session, held in the southeastern province of Hadramaut, was described in a speech by the president as “historic.”

The president also renewed calls for Shiite Houthi rebels to work for peace and said “it is high time to stop your crimes, look at our torn country and displaced people.” He added: “Our country is yours. We extended our hand for peace and we do that again today.” 

Parliament members elected Sultan al-Barakani, assistant secretary general of the People’s General Congress party -- led by slain former President Ali Abdullah Saleh -- as the speaker, replacing Yahia al-Raee, who remained in the capital Sana’a, which is under the control of the Shiite Houthi rebels. 

The event, held in the city of Sayoun under heavy security with Saudi troops on patrol, was attended by Hadi and ambassadors from the 19 countries backing a power transition in Yemen. 

“This is an important step taken by the Yemeni government to reinvigorate legitimate government institutions,” U.S. State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus said Saturday. “A reinvigorated Yemeni parliament will play an important role in advancing political and national reconciliation so the Republic of Yemen government, and all political parties, can better focus on meeting the needs of the Yemeni people.”

Before the session, Shiite Houthi rebels stormed the homes of some lawmakers in Sana’a, warning them that participating would be considered a “ felony” meant to legitimize the war on Yemen, according to the rebel-held Saba news agency on Wednesday. Any actions of the meeting are “null and void,” according to the news report.

Legitimacy Extended

Yemen’s last parliamentary elections were held in 2003 and terms expired in 2009, but the body has been endorsed by a Gulf Cooperation Council initiative for power transition following the 2012 public uprising against Saleh as a legitimate assembly to work with Hadi until a new general election is held.

Members of parliament loyal to the Houthis and Saleh met in Sana’a, though without a quorum since the 301 seats are divided among the warring parties. Hadi managed to hold the parliament meeting this time after a quorum was achieved. 

The session was held with 138 lawmakers, who flew to Riyadh before being air lifted to Sayoun. At least 35 lawmakers died in recent years. Dozens of MPs remained in Sana’a. 

This session was possible after several lawmakers loyal to Saleh defected from the Houthis and left Sana’a, following Saleh’s murder in clashes between his loyalists and Houthis in December 2017. 

Hadi and Saudi Arabia have failed to hold a meeting of lawmakers since 2017, but calls by the Houthi leadership for elections in early February to replace the dead MPs prompted the government to announce the relocation of the election commission to Aden. That hastened the meeting, demonstrating warring parties tussle over parliamentary legitimacy after more than four years of conflict.

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