Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

‘Al-Sabeen’ Gathering Shakes Balance of Power in Sana’a | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Yemenis hold posters and portraits of Ali Abdullah Saleh during a rally in support of the former president, as his political party marks 35 years since its founding on August 24, 2017 (AFP Photo/MOHAMMED HUWAIS)

London, Taez – A gathering of the General People’s Congress (GPC) supporters in Sana’a Thursday to celebrate the 35h anniversary of the party’s formation posed a threat to the balance of power in the Yemeni capital, which has been under the control of insurgents since Sept. 2014.

Worldwide news agencies estimated that “hundreds of thousands” of supporters from the GPC, which is led by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, rallied at Al-Sabeen Square on Thursday.

In return, according to observers, barely “thousands” of Houthis attended four other rallies staged in the capital under the slogan of “mobilizing fighters,” but in reality they only aimed at causing “trouble to Al-Sabeen gathering.”

The crowd at the GPC rally chanted on Thursday slogans against the Houthis, saying: “No Houthis after today.”

Saleh’s second-in-command in the GPC, Aref al-Zouka, also accused the Houthis of financial mismanagement and corruption, calling on them to “fight corruption and hand over the salaries.”

At Al-Sabeen Square, Saleh appeared in person at the rally but gave a brief speech, claiming that “hundreds of thousands of fighters were ready to fight” against the legitimate government and the Coalition.

“We are political pioneers with a solid anchor, and we have been facing conspiracies against us since 2011,” he said.

During the rally, only limited skirmishes took place at checkpoints staged by the Houthi rebels, with no major security incidents between the two partners of the coup.

In the past weeks, tension has grown between Saleh and head of Ansar Allah group, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, who had both joined hands in 2014 and drove the legitimate government out of the capital.

“Saleh’s appearance at the rally means there is an opposition inside the coup,” Yemeni political analyst Yaseen al-Tamimi told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He said Saleh’s speech was not used to send a message of peace or to deliver a clear position from the latest efforts to reach a political agreement in the country. According to Al-Tamimi, Saleh sought to appease Houthis in his “short and unclear” speech by announcing his readiness to mobilize tens of thousands of fighters at the frontlines. 

On Tuesday, groups linked with Abdel-Malek al-Houthi declared a state of emergency in Houthi-controlled areas to face what they described as a “betrayal” from their ally Saleh.