Yemeni president opens parliament in the south, as rebels hold by-elections

Both sides are under pressure from international players to implement a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire deal agreed last year in Sweden and to prepare for a broader political dialogue that would end the 4-year-old war.
Monday 15/04/2019
Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi attends the Yemeni parliament's first meeting since the Yemeni crisis erupted more than four years ago. (SPA)
Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi attends the Yemeni parliament's first meeting since the Yemeni crisis erupted more than four years ago. (SPA)

LONDON - Yemen's internationally recognised president, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, made a rare visit to his country on March 13 as members of the House of Representatives gathered to hear him speak during an extraordinary session in the city of Seiyun located in the south-eastern province of Hadhramaut.

Hadi said during the first parliamentary session to be held in government-controlled territory since the escalation of fighting in 2015 that the Houthi rebels had "chosen themselves to be the enemies of the people of Yemen despite the fact that Yemenis held out their hands in peace dozens of times," the pro-government the pro-government Saba news agency reported.

"We spoke to them in the language of rationality, wisdom and logic hundreds of times but they chose the path of evil. They destroyed all the state's institutions and targeted all the people of Yemen and your institution here is one of the institutions they attacked with all means," Hadi said.

The session would "unite all Yemenis, in all their parties, orientations and sects based on legitimacy and the pillars of nationalism to confront this destructive project," he added.

Hadi's Riyadh-backed government has been based in the southern port city of Aden since 2015 and Hadi has not set foot there since a visit last August. During the parliamentary session, Sultan al-Burkani of the General People's Congress (GPC) of late Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was elected as the new speaker of the legislative body.

Al-Burkani also delivered an address in which he called on the Houthi rebel movement to "turn towards peace, relinquish violence and become a political entity which exerts its efforts and its rights in accordance with the limits of the law and the constitution."

Prompting a brief burst of applause, al-Burkani called on the government to return to its temporary seat of Aden "to carry out its responsibilities towards the people from inside the country" and called on the president to issue directions to this effect.

In the rebel-controlled capital of Sana'a on the same day of the Hadi-led parliamentary session, the Houthis started to organise elections to fill 24 vacant seats in the same parliament, the pro-Houthi BA news agency reported.

According to SABA, head of the rebel government Abdelaziz bin Habtour and head of the High Electoral Commission Mohammed al-Salmi had been briefed on the progress of the polls being held in Sana'a's 17th constituency

They also visited polling stations accompanied by other officials, praising the voters' "desire to cast their ballots and exercise their constitutional and legal rights, embodying the greatest image of the preservation of national sovereignty by choosing who to represent them in the House of Representatives."

Both sides are under pressure from international players to implement a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire deal agreed last year in Sweden and to prepare for a broader political dialogue that would end the 4-year-old war. Under the deal, lawmakers from both sides would ultimately meet to decide on a legislative framework.

The Saudi-led coalition has accused the Iran-aligned Houthis of breaching the Stockholm agreement. The Houthis want more guarantees from the United Nations that the other side will not exploit their withdrawal.