Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Uncertainty over the fate of Yemen’s new constitution continues in the wake of the kidnapping of the head of the committee tasked with drafting the document on Saturday by members of the Houthi insurgent movement.
A source close to the presidency, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Yemeni leaders believed the drafting of the constitution and the kidnapping were related, and said the constitution was currently the main source of disagreement between the Houthis and the presidency.
The committee tasked with drafting the constitution released a final draft of the document on Saturday, the same day armed Houthis seized Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak, who also serves as chief-of-staff to Yemen’s president and is the secretary-general of the committee tasked with overseeing the drafting of the new constitution.
Reports say the incident took place in the Yemeni capital Sana’a, as Mubarak was heading to a meeting with President Hadi to discuss the final form of the constitution.
The National Dialogue Conference, a multi-party body set up to oversee Yemen’s political transition, has given the Houthis 24 hours to release Mubarak.
The Houthis took control of Sana’a at the end of September 2014, occupying many government buildings and ministries following a month of protests demanding the formation of a new government and the restoration of fuel subsidies.
Despite signing a peace agreement with the Yemeni government which led to the formation of a new government in November, the Houthis have continued to advance across different areas of Yemen, extending the territory under their control in a number of provinces in the north and west of the country.
The new document, one of the outcomes of the political road map adopted by the National Dialogue Conference, proposes reforming Yemen’s political system by dividing it into six federal states, four in the north and two in the south.
Each region will be represented by 12 members in the country’s 84-seat upper house of parliament, the Federal Council. There will be an additional six representatives for the cities of Aden and Sana’a, who will be independent of their respective federal regions and have their own legislative powers. Members of the Federal Council are to be elected by the public.
The country’s six regions will also each have a regional council with no more than 80 members, who will also be elected by the public. They will be tasked with drafting a regional constitution that must be compatible with its federal counterpart, as well as additional local laws and a regional budget.
Presidential terms are to last for five years and each president will be limited to two terms in office. The president and the vice-president will run on the same ticket and must not hail from the same federal region, and, if former members of the army, police, or security services, must have been civilians for at least a decade before standing for election.
The new draft constitution also bans political parties or groups formed along ethnic, sectarian or religious lines. Parties or groups must also not seek to disrupt the country’s republican democratic system or receive funds or support from abroad. They will also be banned from forming armed wings or militias.
Hamdan Al-Rahbi contributed additional reporting.