Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Yemeni president’s favored candidate for prime minister, Ahmed Bin Mubarak, rejected his nomination on Wednesday, following fierce opposition from Houthi rebels controlling large parts of the capital Sana’a.
In a letter submitted to President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Bin Mubarak asked to be “exempted” from the task of forming a new government for reasons relating to the preservation of “national unity” and in order to spare the country “any divisions and disagreements,” the state-owned SABA news agency reported.
Bin Mubarak was appointed by President Hadi on Tuesday as part of a UN-brokered deal with the Houthi rebels that have occupied Sana’a to form a new government and introduce economic and political reforms.
The Houthi movement immediately criticized Bin Mubarak’s appointment as being imposed by “an outside power,” and threatened to mount what it described as “popular revolution.”
The movement took control of large parts of Sana’a and overran key state buildings on September 21, a month after thousands of its supporters occupied camps across the capital to demand the removal of the government and the restoration of economic subsidies, leading to sporadic fatal clashes with the security forces.
“Based on our adherence to the concepts of partnership and consensus and the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference we announce our categorical rejection of such a decision [which] does not naturally reflect the internal will as much as it was an external decision,” the Houthi’s Ansar Allah group said in a statement on Tuesday.
The General People’s Congress (GPC), which is led by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, also rejected Hadi’s decision, maintaining that Bin Mubarak’s candidacy did not meet the conditions set by the UN-sponsored deal.
Choosing Bin Mubarak “to head the forthcoming national partnership government represents a departure from the Peace and Partnership Agreement,” the GPC’s Political Bureau said in a statement on Wednesday. It maintained that the step violated the “standards of choosing the prime minister which emphasized neutrality, independence and non-partisanship.”
The statement went on to accuse Bin Mubarak of “holding antagonistic and extremist stances toward several political parties in Yemen and definitely the GPC.”
Meanwhile, the site of a Houthi rally in the capital was attacked by a suicide bomber on Thursday, killing over 40 people.
Eyewitnesses told Reuters news agency that a man wearing a suicide belt had approached a Houthi-manned checkpoint in Sana’a Tahrir Square, where the movement was planning to hold a rally, and blew himself up.
In another attack, also on Thursday, attackers attempted to storm an army camp in the coastal Buroom region of the eastern province of Hadhramaut, killing 20 soldiers in a combined suicide car-bomb and gun attack before being driven off.
Thursday’s attacks followed on the heels of other violent incidents earlier this week. At least 28 people, including 14 Yemeni soldiers, were killed in a series of attacks on several military and security bases in the central province of Al-Bayda on Wednesday.
Militants from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the attacks, which they said were part of their war against the Houthi rebels. AQAP, an extremist Sunni organization affiliated to Al-Qaeda, is deeply hostile to the largely Shi’ite Houthis, and have recently been carrying out an escalating series of attacks against the movement and its members.
Security forces thwarted multiple attacks on other several security and military bases in Al-Bayda on Wednesday, SABA reported.
The attack comes after several Al-Bayda tribes vowed to push back against Houthi insurgents trying to enter the central governorate on the pretext of fighting AQAP militants.
Elsewhere, residents from Sana’a reported to Asharq Al-Awsat seeing Houthi militants in military uniform manning checkpoints they set up at key intersections in the capital on Wednesday.
The uniforms are believed to have been seized from military bases in Sana’a and Amran that Houthis overran recently, sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Asharq Al-Awsat, in a move that may herald the movement’s integration into the Yemen’s official National Security Forces.
It is unknown what effect this will have on the UN-brokered power-sharing agreement between the Houthis and the government. Under the terms of the deal, the Houthis have agreed to pull their forces out of the capital once the new government has been formed.
Hamdan Al-Rahbi contributed reporting from Sana’a