Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—A rift has emerged between the Houthi movement and its alleged ally former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, according to sources, as the deadline set by the group for resolving the country’s current power vacuum approaches.
The Houthis have given the country’s political factions until Wednesday to establish an interim government until a new president can be selected, while also demanding the appointment of a new head of the armed forces. Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and his premier and cabinet resigned in late January, after Houthi fighters occupied the presidential palace in the capital Sana’a.
As the deadline approaches, reports of disagreements have surfaced between the Houthis and Saleh—who many in Yemen believe has aided the advance of the group across the country—over what shape the new power structure should take.
Instead of the proposed Houthi plan, Saleh and his General People’s Congress party are reportedly seeking to use its parliamentary majority to appoint the speaker of Yemen’s parliament—Saleh’s aide Sahya Al-Raiee—as president for a period of 60 days under a clause of Yemen’s constitution.
Ali Al-Sarari, a former adviser to outgoing premier Khaled Bahah, told Asharq Al-Awsat relations between the Houthis and Saleh had now reached a “critical stage.”
“Of course, the former [Saleh] regime sees this as the perfect moment to regain total control, while the new power in the country, represented by the Houthis, is looking to consolidate its position,” he said.
“For this reason we see there is a big difference between both groups. The former regime is seeking complete control of the political situation through using legitimate means—by going through the Yemeni parliament. This way, everything will fall to the advantage of one side, the former regime,” he added.
The Houthis, meanwhile, are seeking “recognition of their existence, legality and authority, as well as a power sharing partnership of some kind . . . which the group can use as a smokescreen for its activities over the coming period.”
Jamal Benomar, the UN’s special envoy to Yemen, met with representatives of the group over the last few days, and has faced a barrage of criticism in the Yemeni press, who accuse him of giving “the Houthi coup” legitimacy through the meetings.
But Sarari dismissed the criticisms as part of a smear campaign against Benomar by Saleh and those loyal to him, saying that the UN special adviser was “genuinely seeking a political agreement that would take the country out of this crisis, but without the return of the former regime.”