Saturday, February 7, 2015

Houthis dissolve Yemen's parliament and install ''transitional council''

Houthi Shiites attend a meeting to announce their taking over the country in Sanaa, Yemen, Friday, Feb. 6, 2015. Yemen's powerful Shiite rebels announced on Friday that they have taken over the country and dissolved parliament, a dramatic move that
Houthis, tribal and military representatives as well as the interior and defence ministers attended the installation of the new ''presidential council''. (Photo AP)

Houthi militants in Yemen announced a new “constitutional declaration” on Friday evening, which dissolved the parliament and established a “transitional council.” According to the declaration, pro-Houthi "revolutionary committees" — headed up by senior group member Mohammed Ali al-Houthi — will form a transitional council to replace the parliament.
The 551 members of the transitional council will establish a five-member presidential council to manage the country's affairs, according to a televised statement.
On Saturday the Houthis, who call themselves Ansar Ullah, also announced the formation of a 'security commission', including former ministers, which according to the state news agency Saba, will rule until the presidential council had been formed. The commission will be chaired by General Mahmud al-Subaihi, Defence minister in the government of outgoing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The Interior minister of Hadi's former government is also one of the 18 members of the commission.
 While the announcement was made, thousands gathered outside the presidential palace to protest the ''coup''.The Houthis swept into Sanaa from their northern stronghold in September. Last month they seized the presidential palace and key government buildings and encircled the houses of senior officials in what authorities called a coup attempt.That prompted President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and Prime Minister Khalid Bahah to tender their resignations.
The announcement of the constitutional declaration came after a Wednesday deadline set by the militia for political parties to resolve the crisis passed with no agreement. After another round of talks late Thursday attended by UN envoy Jamal Benomar, participants had said negotiations would resume on Saturday. On Friday, Benomar flew out of the country before the declaration was announced.
Yemen has been riven by instability since the Arab Spring-inspired uprising that forced autocratic president Ali Abdullah Saleh from power in 2012. Saleh has been accused of backing the Houthis -- who are from the same Zaidi sect of Shia Islam as the ex-leader.
The fall of Hadi's Western-backed government has raised fears of complete chaos engulfing Yemen, strategically located next to oil-rich Saudi Arabia and on the key shipping route from the Suez Canal to the Gulf. Hadi said when he stepped down that he could no longer stay in office as the country was in "total deadlock". The former career soldier took office in 2012 under a UN- and Gulf-backed peace plan, in a country awash with weapons and where powerful tribes hold sway, emerging as a consensus figure.
But unlike his predecessor Saleh, who ruled Yemen for 33 years, Hadi had no popular or tribal base to fall back on. The situation escalated last month when the militia seized a presidential aide in an apparent attempt to extract changes to a draft constitution which they opposed because it would have divided Yemen into six federal regions. After heavy fighting between government forces and the Houthis that killed at least 35 people, the UN Security Council and Yemen's Gulf neighbours had all voiced support for Hadi's continued rule. In the formerly independent south, officials have vowed to defy Sanaa following the resignation of Hadi, who is a southerner.
The country is an important power base for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which claimed responsibility for last month's deadly attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Yemen has allowed the United States to carry out repeated drone attacks on Al-Qaeda militants in its territory.

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