New Yemeni government expected after months of delays

Doha is using its political tools within the Yemeni government to blackmail the Arab coalition.
Friday 06/11/2020
A file picture shows Yemeni Prime Minister Moeen Abdulmalik giving a press conference in the port of Aden. (AFP)
A file picture shows Yemeni Prime Minister Moeen Abdulmalik giving a press conference in the port of Aden. (AFP)

ADEN – A source with the Yemeni government and another with the Saudi-led Arab coalition revealed to The Arab Weekly that there will be an imminent announcement of a new Yemeni government after the failure of Al Islah party, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, to obstruct efforts to form a government by delaying submitting a list of candidates for four ministerial portfolios.

The new government, according to the Riyadh Agreement, consists of 24 portfolios.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the leaders of Al Islah party have exhausted every effort to block the announcement of the new government.

A new government was expected this month, but the announcement was delayed several times. The declaration was last delayed on November 5, coinciding with the first anniversary of the signing of the Riyadh Agreement sponsored by Saudi Arabia and signed between the government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) in 2019.

After overcoming the delays caused by the Muslim Brotherhood, the government is now expected to officially announce the new government within 48 hours.

The sources indicated that Al Islah Party, which controls most institutions of the legitimate government, including the army, had complained about not obtaining key portfolios in the new cabinet.

Al Islah reportedly demanded a number of ministries, including the transport ministry, which was later granted to the STC, and the communications ministry.

Eventually, Al Islah obtained four portfolios, including the ministry of higher education, the ministry of technical education and vocational training, the ministry of health and the ministry of youth and sports.

Al Islah reportedly used pressure to gain control of the ministry of youth and sports, which was granted to a figure from the party but within the share of the “Southern Resistance.”

Al Islah also managed to control other ministries that were allocated to political parties and components of the Yemeni government, nominating Muslim Brotherhood elements within these ministries.

Leaders in the General People’s Congress accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of exercising a kind of guardianship over the party’s quota by involving pro-Brotherhood elements and imposing names known to be loyal to the Brotherhood’s political agenda as representatives of the party in the next government.

Al Islah’s nominations of Brotherhood figures, some leaders of the General People’s Congress say, come at the expense of longtime leaders of the party, who stood against a project to dismantle their movement and hand it over to pragmatic elements known for their dubious ties with Doha.

Since the signing of the Riyadh Agreement a year ago, Al Islah’s leadership has mobilised numerous Yemeni figures to criticise the deal and question its provisions in an attempt to stop it from going forward.

In the second stage of its plan to block the agreement, Al Islah refused to implement the deal under different pretexts, in a bid to buy time as the date for government formation approached.

The Arab Weekly learned that Muhammad al-Yadumi, head of Al Islah’s High Commission, has been in the Turkish city of Istanbul for more than two months trying to manage the political battle from abroad.

Turkey has become a key destination for Yemeni and non-Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood leaders and a launchpad for agendas targeting the region.

The Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood’s justification for obstructing implementation of the Riyadh Agreement include a demand that the military and security part of the agreement be enacted before the political part, which includes the announcement of a party-quota government and a guarantee of parity between the north and the south.

In recent weeks, Al Islah leaders have also begun to express displeasure with the portfolios granted to the party.

The Yemeni Brotherhood and the Qatari movement are waging a multi-faceted battle to obstruct any form of rapprochement between the government and other components opposed to the Houthi militias, such as the STC, and the National Resistance Forces on the West Coast led by Brigadier General Tareq Saleh.

Doha is using its political tools within the Yemeni government to blackmail the Arab coalition, question its role and stop any efforts to accelerate the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and the formation of a new Yemeni government.

To advance their strategy, Doha’s agents have used political and media discourse attempting to portray the Arab coalition’s role as a guardianship that is seeking to undermine the government and rob it of its sovereignty.

Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood’s disruptive roles within the Yemeni government went beyond the political and media sphere. They also mobilised armed militias that Doha financed in Taiz, Shabwa and Al Mahra.

These militias spearheaded Qatar’s project to confuse the Arab coalition, target patriotic Yemeni components and serve the Iranian-backed Houthi agenda in the country.

The governorates of Taiz and Shabwa recently witnessed military movements by the so-called Popular Mobilisation militias supported by Qatar and integrated into the Yemeni national army by influential Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

According to military sources, the Popular Mobilisation units operate in line with Qatari directives to thwart the Riyadh Agreement and push for intense military confrontation between the National Army on the one hand and the STC forces and the Joint Resistance forces on the other.

Yemeni sources monitored military movements of Islamist militias in the Tor al-Baha area north of Aden, and in the vicinity of the Arab coalition camps in Shabwa, as well as ongoing tension in several fronts of the Abyan governorate.

Although Al Islah’s leadership is committed to not appearing to play a role in the tensions, some party leaders are working in concert to send political messages to the Yemeni government’s leadership and the Arab coalition.

In a long statement titled “The Prime Minister is a Sovereign Position,” Abyan Deputy Governor Abdulaziz al-Hamzah, who also heads the political department for Al Islah, launched a violent attack on Prime Minister-designate Moein Abdul-Malik and the Arab coalition against the backdrop of ongoing consultations to form a new government.

Hamzah, who led an armed march a few days ago towards one of the Arab coalition camps in the Al Alam region in Shabwa, demanded that Interior Minister Ahmed Al-Maysari, known for his ties with Qatar, be appointed as prime minister instead of Abdul-Malik.

Hamzah hinted at what he called a popular movement and the organisation of a mass protest rally under the banner “Maysari represents me,” in anticipation of Maysari’s possible dismissal from the next government over his role in escalating political tensions.

“The messages sent by this popular movement confirm beyond a reasonable doubt that Maysari is no longer just a minister or a name in the Yemeni political equation, but has become a representative of the popular will, which requires his participation in any upcoming political formation,” Hamzah said.

He addressed the Arab coalition, saying that it “should not go too far in provoking the Yemeni people (…) and not turn into a big stick targeting national symbols, and working towards their removal from the political scene, to create new unreliable symbols who are deeply involved in treason and disloyalty.”

Observers considered that Al Islah leaders’ criticism of the Arab alliance is an indication of shifts in the party’s position in the post-Riyadh agreement and the effective involvement of new Yemeni political components and forces into the Yemeni government. Al Islah is, in fact, concerned that the scale of its influence and control over the government’s decision and institutions will, progressively and eventually, shrink in the future.