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Houthis secure six ministerial portfolios in new Yemeni cabinet - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Pro-secession southern Yemenis wave flags of the former People's Democratic Republic of Yemen during a rally in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen, on October 24, 2014. (EPA/Stringer)

Pro-secession southern Yemenis wave flags of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen during a rally in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen, on October 24, 2014. (EPA/Stringer)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Houthi movement has secured six cabinet seats in the new Yemeni government, at the same time that President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi retained the right to appoint ministers of defense, interior, finance, and foreign affairs.

Interim Prime Minister Khaled Bahah announced on Saturday the 34 ministerial portfolios that will form the country’s new cabinet, as well as the distribution of posts among Yemen’s political factions.

The posts will be divided among the parties and groups that formed the signatories to the Peace and Partnership agreement signed last month in a bid to put an end to the month-long mass protests the Houthis had staged in the capital, Sana’a.

Each group will be required to put forward three names for each post they have been given, from which President Hadi and Bahah will choose one name for each post in line with the agreement.

The Houthi movement received six ministerial portfolios comprising the ministries of justice, oil and mineral resources, electricity and energy, culture, civil service, and vocational education.

The former ruling General People’s Congress (GPC), led by deposed former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, was given nine portfolios in the new government, most prominently the ministries of health, media, fisheries, human rights, and youth and sports.

The Southern secessionist Al-Hirak movement, meanwhile, received six portfolios comprising education, communications and information technology, public works and roads, manufacturing and trade, agriculture, and legal affairs.

A major coalition of six opposition parties, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), was given nine portfolios: the ministries of planning and international cooperation, transport, religious endowments and guidance, employment, higher education and scientific research, water and environment, and expatriate affairs.

However, the JMP threatened to boycott the new government, protesting what they said was a lack of parity in the division of cabinet posts. In a statement on Friday, the group said efforts to form the new government had veered away from the criteria agreed upon as part of the National Dialogue Conference, a year-long convention on Yemen’s political future which ended in January 2014.

Yemen’s neighbors and international backers hope the formation of a new government will ease tensions in country, the poorest and most troubled state on the Arabian Peninsula. While it was originally announced as part of a deal to resolve the Houthis’ demands for new leadership and the cutting of fuel prices, the Houthis’ takeover of Sana’a and expansion out of the movement’s northern stronghold and into central and western Yemen has raised tensions with its political rivals and local groups suspicious of outsiders.

The radical Sunni Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has also launched a number of suicide bomb attacks at Houthi targets, and fighters from the two organizations have fought a number of clashes in recent days in areas where support for the terrorist group is relatively strong.

AQAP considers the largely Shi’ite Houthis to be infidels, worsening the sectarian dimension of the unrest currently gripping Yemen.

Opponents of the group accuse it of being under the direction of Iran and of attempting to gain control of a number of governorates and security installations throughout the country. The expansion of the Houthis’ presence has sparked fears of further civil unrest and outright violence in the fragile state, which is currently in the midst of a wider political transition process drawn up in the wake of former president Saleh’s resignation in 2012.

Demands for the independence of Southern Yemen have also returned with a vengeance in the wake of the Houthi advances. The Al-Hirak movement continues to stage protests in the country’s south demanding independence, despite its inclusion in the new government.

The northern and southern halves of Yemen were formerly two separate countries, but were unified in 1990.