Thirty ministers were sworn in on Sunday. Another three rejected their appointments, and three were outside Yemen.
After weeks of wrangling, a UN-brokered deal saw Khaled Bahah nominated as prime minister and tasked with forming a government, after all Yemeni parties and political groups eventually agreed on an independent technocrat Cabinet last Saturday.
But Saleh, seen as a behind-the-scenes power broker, and the Shiite Houthi rebels backed away after the UN Security Council approved sanctions against the former leader and two rebel commanders on Friday.
The Security Council ordered a freeze of all assets and a global travel ban on Saleh, the rebel group’s military commander, Abd Al-Khaliq Al-Huthi, and the Houthi’s second-in-command, Abdullah Yahya Al-Hakim.
The Houthis said in a statement that the sanctions were an obstacle to the political transition of Yemen. The sanctions were “a flagrant provocation of the feelings of Yemenis and a blatant interference in their internal affairs,” the group said.
In the same statement the rebel group dismissed the new government as unrepresentative and called for a new line up.
The Houthi rebels captured Sana’a in September, allegedly with the tacit support of Saleh, and demanded that current President Abd Rabbu Mansur Hadi appoint a new government, complaining the previous one was too close to their rival conservative Sunni Islamist party.
The latest showdown started earlier on Saturday and appeared to be in direct response to the UN sanctions passed Friday soon after the new government was announced. Saleh’s supporters in the ruling party decided earlier Saturday to sack Hadi from its leadership, replacing him and another senior aide with new members.
The party is split between supporters of Hadi and those backing Saleh, who was forced to step down in 2012 following protests against him. Saleh remains a major power broker however. In the US-backed, Gulf-brokered deal in which Saleh agreed to step down in favor of Hadi, he was granted immunity from prosecution. Hadi was a senior aide of Saleh but has since assuming office accused his predecessor of undermining him.
In a televised speech to the party, which he still heads, Saleh blamed Hadi for allegedly lobbying for the sanctions against him since he stepped down. He denied any wrongdoing, vowing to drop the immunity he was granted if authorities had enough evidence to prosecute him.
Saleh then criticized the newly formed government, saying it was “unrepresentative.” The ruling party then announced it was pulling its members from the new Cabinet, which include at least three ministers.
“We will not take part in a government weaker than its predecessor,” Saleh said.