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Opinion: A Political Decisive Storm | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah after his release in Sana’a on March 16, 2015. (AFP Photo/STR)

Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi took his time to appoint a vice president. Before the appointment on Sunday, legitimacy was found in just one person: the president. Yemen’s legitimacy has been under threat; with an unprecedented power vacuum, no parliament and no state apparatus able, if necessary, to fill the void. However, the appointment of Khaled Bahah to the post of vice president has granted Yemen’s legitimacy a sense of stability, providing the presidency with the strength and immunity it sorely needs during this difficult time. Hadi’s appointment of a vice president is a courageous decision, while it also meets the aspirations of the Yemeni people for the creation of a civil state, which is the legitimate right of all sections of Yemen’s society.

War is not solely a military endeavor that is only fought with weapons. The appointment of a Yemeni vice president is a political move that will help Yemen extricate itself from the current crisis. Operation Decisive Storm’s military objectives include pressuring the Houthi rebels to renounce their coup, put down their arms and acknowledge and recognize Yemen’s legitimate authority. In the same way, Bahah’s appointment is a political move whose objectives run parallel to the military objectives of the operation, particularly as the vice president is a well-known and accepted figure across Yemen’s political divide. In addition to this, one can say that he is completely untarnished by the ongoing political conflict in the country; his hands are clean, unlike most other Yemeni political leaders and figures.

Despite Hadi’s brave step in appointing Bahah, this role comes without clear powers and duties for the new vice president. This, of course, reduces expectations of political success during this difficult period in Yemeni history. Bahah will not be able to carry out his duties effectively if the role of vice president does not encompass, at least, the powers and duties of prime minister. It is understood that Bahah will not be appointed deputy commander-in-chief, with Hadi remaining head of Yemen’s military forces, based on his military background. While Bahah, for his part, has spent most of his life working in the economic and oil sector. However, based on the rare Yemeni consensus over their new vice president, the powers that Hadi is expected to grant him will be welcomed by the majority of Yemenis, with the exception of the Houthis—even if Bahah had previously been one of their proposed candidates to take over the Presidential Council.

Khaled Bahah is a political figure from Yemen’s south—Hadhramaut to be precise—who enjoys popularity across Yemen, even in the north. His appointment sees Yemen’s legitimacy take an important step toward restarting the stalled political process since the Houthi coup on September 12, 2014. When he previously served as oil minister, Vice President Bahah rejected the corruption of ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh. He is the figure who is most capable of playing a vital role in completing the political process in Yemen according to the Gulf Initiative and the outcomes of the Yemeni National Dialogue.

Bahah is facing a number of major political challenges, not least the political deceit of ex-president Saleh, as well as Iran’s bullying tactics, which are being enacted by the Houthis. However, there is internal Yemeni momentum behind him, and ongoing Gulf and international backing of Yemeni legitimacy. This will grant Bahah the ability to bring the Yemeni people together politically, and form a unified national front that will work to restore and return Yemen’s hijacked state institutions from the Houthis.

As Operation Decisive Storm is gathering pace, militarily, to save Yemen and its people, Yemenis are also doing everything in their power to launch a politically decisive storm to uproot the Houthi rebels and restore their homeland.