Yemen’s parliament convened on Saturday for the first time since the outbreak of the devastating civil war in the impoverished Arab country in March 2015.
The parliament held its first meeting at the presidential palace in Seiyun city, the second largest city in the southeastern province of Hadramout,with the presence of Yemeni President Abdu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik and delegates of Arab and foreign countries.
“I extend my sincere congratulations to the Yemeni people on the first constitutional meeting of their elected legislative authority,” the Yemeni president said in a speech at the opening of the extraordinary parliamentary session. He said that this special session is being held “at a very important moment in the country’s history, as we stand at the crossroads between the options of peace and war,” accusing the Houthis of intransigence, maneuvering and obstructing the peace efforts exerted by the United Nations in Yemen.
Hadi said that organizing the first meeting of Yemen’s House of Representatives “clearly indicates that the Houthi project is gradual and day by day,” stressing that “Yemenis are now restoring one of the most important institutions of their state after a long journey of struggle.” During the session, the Yemeni lawmakers elected Assistant Secretary-General of the ruling General People’s Congress Party (GPC) Sultan al-Barakani as the new speaker of the pro-government parliament. Al-Barakani said in a speech that the convening of the Yemeni parliament “comes in line with the articles of Yemen’s Constitution.” He stressed full support for any “local, regional or international effort aimed at achieving peace in Yemen.”
The new speaker of the pro-government parliament called on the Houthi group based in Sanaa “to resort to the peace process by abandoning violence and turning to a political component that exercises its rights in accordance with Yemen’s Constitution.” More than 141 members of the 301-member parliament attended Saturday’s session in support of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, a parliamentary source told Xinhua. The six-year term of the 301-member parliament is already expired as the last Yemeni parliamentary elections occurred in 2009 during the era of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The session of the House of Representatives comes based upon a request issued by Hadi who chose the country’s city of Seiyun as a place for the parliamentary meetings as the security conditions are not fully stable in the country’s southern port city of Aden. Heavy Yemeni security forces backed by elite Saudi troops were deployed in Seiyun city amid tightened measures to secure the city with the start of the first parliamentary session. The Houthi rebels based in the capital Sanaa described the pro-Hadi parliament meeting as a “felony,” vowing to take serious action against the participants. Parliamentarians loyal to the Houthi group have started to hold meetings since August 2016 at the main headquarters of the Yemeni House of Representatives in Sanaa.
In January 2017, Hadi issued a republican decision to move the headquarters of the Yemeni House of Representatives (parliament) from Houthi-controlled Sanaa to Aden, where the Yemeni government is currently based.The Iranian-allied Houthis launched a large military campaign and seized Sanaa in late 2014, forcing Hadi and his government to flee into exile in neighboring Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened militarily and began pounding Houthi-controlled Sanaa in March 2015, in response to an official request from Hadi to protect Yemen and roll back Iran’s influence.The conflict between the Houthis and the Saudi-backed government in Yemen has recently entered its fifth year, aggravating the suffering of Yemenis and deepening the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.