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Politics of Yemen

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Politics of Yemen

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Foreign relations

Politics of Yemen takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, where the President of Yemen is the head of state, while the Prime Minister of Yemen (who is appointed by the President) is the head of government. Although it is notionally a multi-party system, in reality it is completely dominated by one party, the General People's Congress, and has been since unification. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament. The Judiciary is theoretically independent but in reality it is prone to interference from the executive branch.

Yemen is a republic with a bicameral legislature. Under the constitution, an elected president, an elected 301-seat House of Representatives, and an appointed 111-member Shura Council share power. The president is head of state, and the prime minister is head of government. The constitution provides that the president be elected by popular vote from at least two candidates endorsed by Parliament; the prime minister is appointed by the president. The presidential term of office is 7 years, and the parliamentary term of elected office is 6 years. Suffrage is universal over 18.


  • Political background 1
    • Reunification 1.1
    • Yemeni uprising 1.2
    • Houthi insurgency 1.3
  • Executive branch 2
  • Legislative branch 3
  • Political parties and elections 4
  • Judicial branch 5
  • Administrative divisions 6
  • Provincial and local government 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Political background

For hundreds of years Yemen was ruled by imams who had absolute powers on the political process in the country. The imams of Yemen and later the Kings of Yemen were religiously consecrated leaders belonging to the Zaidiyyah branch of Shia Islam. They established a blend of religious and secular rule in parts of Yemen from 897. Their imamate endured under varying circumstances until the republican revolution in 1962. Zaidiyyah theology differed from Ismailis or Twelver Shi'ites by stressing the presence of an active and visible imam as leader. This came to an end with the assassination of Imam Yehia. His son, Imam Badr succeeded him but the political situation deteriorated with the beginning of the North Yemen Civil War in 1962 with the overthrow of Imam Badr and the setting of a new, Republican regime.

While In the North, during the civil war, the pro-monarch and pro-republican forces fought for power, the South of Yemen was under British control. During the 1960s, the British sought to incorporate all of the Aden Protectorate territories into the Federation. On 18 January 1963, the Colony of Aden was incorporated against the wishes of much of the city's populace as the State of Aden and the Federation was renamed the Federation of South Arabia. Several more states subsequently joined the Federation and the remaining states that declined to join, mainly in Hadhramaut, formed the Protectorate of South Arabia. In 1963 fighting between Egyptian forces and British-led Saudi-financed guerrillas in the Yemen Arab Republic spread to South Arabia with the formation of the National Liberation Front (NLF), who hoped to force the British out of South Arabia. Hostilities started with a grenade attack by the NLF against the British High Commissioner on 10 December 1963, killing one person and injuring fifty, and a state of emergency was declared, becoming known as the Aden Emergency. In 1964, the new British government under Harold Wilson announced their intention to hand over power to the Federation of South Arabia in 1968, but that the British military would remain. In 1964, there were around 280 guerrilla attacks and over 500 in 1965. In 1966 the British Government announced that all British forces would be withdrawn at independence. In response, the security situation deteriorated with the creation of the socialist Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY) which started to attack the NLF in a bid for power, as well as attacking the British. With the British being defeated and driven from Aden by the end of November 1967, earlier than had been planned by British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and without an agreement on the succeeding governance. Their enemies, the NLF, managed to seize power, with Aden itself under NLF control. The Royal Marines, who had been the first British troops to occupy Aden in 1839, were the last to leave. The Federation of South Arabia collapsed and Southern Yemen became independent as the People's Republic of South Yemen.

Following the Yemen suffers from a highly fractured political landscape, which is the legacy of the regime of President Ali Abd Allah Saleh, who came to power in 1978 and formally resigned his office in February 2012.


The Republic of Yemen (ROY) was declared on 22 May 1990 with Saleh becoming President and al-Baidh Vice President. For the first time in centuries, much of Greater Yemen was politically united. A 30-month transitional period for completing the unification of the two political and economic systems was set. A presidential council was jointly elected by the 26-member YAR advisory council and the 17-member PDRY presidium. The presidential council appointed a Prime Minister, who formed a Cabinet. There was also a 301-seat provisional unified parliament, consisting of 159 members from the north, 111 members from the south, and 31 independent members appointed by the chairman of the council.

A unity constitution was agreed upon in May 1990 and ratified by the populace in May 1991. It affirmed Yemen's commitment to free elections, a multiparty political system, the right to own private property, equality under the law, and respect of basic human rights. Parliamentary elections were held on 27 April 1993. International groups assisted in the organization of the elections and observed actual balloting. The resulting Parliament included 143 GPC, 69 YSP, 63 Islaah (Yemeni grouping for reform, a party composed of various tribal and religious groups), six Baathis, three Nasserists, two Al Haq, and 15 independents. The head of Islaah, Paramount Hashid Sheik Abdallah Bin Husayn Al-Ahmar, is the speaker of Parliament.

In late 1991 through early 1992, deteriorating economic conditions led to significant domestic unrest, including several riots. Legislative elections were nonetheless held in early 1993, and in May the two former ruling parties, the GPC and the YSP, merged to create a single political party with an overall majority in the new House of Representatives. In August Vice President al Baydh exiled himself voluntarily to Aden, and the country’s general security situation deteriorated as political rivals settled scores and tribal elements took advantage of the widespread unrest. In January 1994, representatives of the main political parties signed a document of pledge and accord in Amman, Jordan, that was designed to resolve the ongoing crisis. Despite this, clashes intensified until civil war broke out in early May 1994.

Yemeni uprising

Protesters in Sana'a on 3 February.

The 2011 Yemeni protests followed the initial stages of the Arab Spring and began simultaneously with the Egyptian Revolution. The protests were initially against unemployment, economic conditions and corruption, as well as against the government's proposals to modify the constitution of Yemen. The protestors' demands then escalated to calls for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign.

The situation however quickly deteriorated into a widescale uprising, with various insurgency campaigns consolidating into an armed tribal struggles, both between the armed opposition and terror groups vs. the government and among themselves. Eventually Saudi-brokered agreement on Saleh's resignation and 2012 Presidential election saw the installation of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi as an interim President. Hadi has been presiding over political reform and national reconciliation and was supposed to serve only two years in the post. On November 2013 U.N. envoy Jamal Benomar told The Associated Press Hadi will remain president after February 2014 because the transition is not likely to be completed earlier due to "obstruction" from former regime loyalists.[1]

Houthi insurgency

In northern Yemen, where a large Shi’a Zaydi population lives, Saleh's regime has for decades alienated this community through discriminatory religious and political policies. Saleh, with the help of some elements in pro-U.S. policies, which led to armed confrontation and a series of wars with the Yemeni army. This ultimately dragged the Saudi Arabian military into the fray, leading to considerable property destruction and a large refugee problem. In 2011, as Saleh's power waned in the provinces as a result of the uprising against him, the Houthis took control over large areas of the north, but still remain outside the political framework of government.

Executive branch

The President is elected by direct, popular vote for a seven-year term. The vice-president, prime minister and deputy prime ministers are appointed by the President. The Council of Ministers is appointed by the President on the advice of the prime minister. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been head of state in Unified Yemen since 1990 (since 1978 in North Yemen) and was democratically elected in 1999. In the September 2006 presidential elections Saleh was challenged by a coalition of five leading opposition parties, the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), which fronted the candidate Faisal bin Shamlan. President Saleh was reported to have decided in 2005 not to run for another term in office, but was later convinced by a public demonstration calling him to continue as leader of the country to run again.[2]
Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi General People's Congress 23 November 2011
Prime Minister Khaled Bahah Independent 9 November 2014

Legislative branch

The Assembly of Representatives (Majlis al-Nuwaab) has 301 members, elected for a six year term in single-seat constituencies. In May 1997, the president created a Consultative Council, sometimes referred to as the upper house of Parliament; its 59 members are all appointed by the president. The president of the Consultative Council was Abdul Aziz Abdul Ghani prior to his death in August 2011.

Political parties and elections

 Summary of the 21 February 2012 Yemeni presidential election results
Candidates – Nominating parties Votes %
Abd Rabbuh Mansur HadiGeneral People's Congress 6,621,921 99.80
Total votes (turnout 64.78%) 6,635,192 100.00
Registered voters 10,243,364  
Source: Le Figaro
 Summary of the 27 April 2003 Yemen Assembly of Representatives election results
Parties Votes % Seats
General People's Congress (al-Mu'tammar al-Sha'bi al-'Am) 3,429,888 58.0 238
Yemeni Congregation for Reform (al-Tajmu al-Yamani li al-Islah) 1,333,394 22.6 46
Yemen Socialist Party (Hizb al-Ishtirakiya al-Yamaniya) 277,223 3.8 8
109,480 1.9 3
Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party (Hizb al Baath al'Arabi al Ishtiraki) 40,377 0.7 2
National Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party (Hizb Al-Ba'ath Al-Arabi Al-Ishtiraki Al-Qawmi) 23,745 0.4 0
Nasserite Popular Correctional Movement (al-Tashih al-Shabi al-Nasiri) 15,257 0.25 0
Yemeni Union of Popular Forces (Ittihad al-Qiwa al-Shabiyya) 11,967 0.2 0
Democratic Nasserite Party (al-Hizb al-Dimuqrati al-Nasiri) 9,829 0.16 0
Democratic National Front (al-Jabha al-Wataniya al-Dimuqratiyya) 7,056 0.12 0
Social Nationalist Party (Hizb al-Qawmi al-Ijtimai) 5,349 0.09 0
al-Haqq Party (Hizb al-Haqq) 4,585 0.08 0
People's Democratic Party (Hizb al-Shab al-Dimuqrati) 4,077 0.07 0
Democratic Union of Popular Forces (al-Ittihad al-Dimuqrati) 3,003 0.05 0
Social Green Party (Hizb al-Khudr al-Ijtimai) 2,276 0.04 0
Popular Unity Party (Hizb al-Wahda al-Shabiyya) 1,739 0.03 0
Yemeni League Party (Al Rabita al-Yamaniyya al-Shariyya) 1,383 0.02 0
Liberation Front Party (Hizb Jabhat al-Tahrir) 1,282 0.02 0
Popular Unionist Liberation Party (Hizb al-Tahrir al-Shabi al-Wahdawi) 1,241 0.02 0
Yemeni Unionist Gathering (al-Tajammu al-Wahdawi al-Yamani) 483 0.01 0
Democratic September Organization (al-Tanzim al-Sebtembri) 81 0.001 0
Non-partisans - . 4
Total (turnout 76.0%) 5,912,302 100.0 301
Source: A number of candidates elected as non-partisans joined MSA or Islah. Other sources give a different division of seats. Also list of results and parties here and here.

In April 2003 parliamentary elections, the General People's Congress (GPC) maintained an absolute majority. International observers described the elections as "another significant step forward on Yemen’s path toward democracy; however, sustained and forceful efforts must be undertaken to remedy critical flaws in the country’s election and political processes."[3] There were some problems with underage voting, confiscation of ballot boxes, voter intimidation, and election-related violence; moreover, the political opposition in Yemen has little access to the media, since most outlets are owned or otherwise controlled by the government.

For an overview of the 2006 election results, see Elections in Yemen

The 2006 elections were described in positive wording, and the elections were monitored by a number of international observers. The EU's Election Observation Mission to Yemen has published this final report on the elections: [1] Yemeni media reported on the 22.01.2007 that the opposition coalition JMP has set up a Shadow government "to play an effective role in the political, economic and social life".[4] The ruling party GPC called upon the opposition to "acquaint themselves with constitutional systems before starting to talk every now and then about...rosy dreams and illusions".[5]

Judicial branch

The constitution calls for an independent judiciary. The former northern and southern legal codes have been unified. The legal system includes separate commercial courts and a Supreme Court based in Sanaá. The Quran is the basis for all laws, and no law may contradict it. Indeed many court cases are debated by the religious basis of the laws i.e. by interpretations of the Quran. For this reason, many judges are religious scholars as well as legal authorities.

Administrative divisions

Yemen is divided in 17 governorates (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Abyan, 'Adan, Al Bayda', Al Hudaydah, Al Jawf, Al Mahrah, Al Mahwit, 'Ataq, Dhamar, Hadhramawt, Hajjah, Ibb, Lahij, Ma'rib, Sa'dah, San'a', Ta'izz. There may be four new governorates - the capital city of Sanaa, Amran, Dala'a, Raimah.

Provincial and local government

Formal government authority is centralized in the capital city of Sanaa. Yemen’s Local Authority Law decentralized authority by establishing locally elected district and governorate councils (last elected in September 2006), formerly headed by government-appointed governors. After the September 2006 local and governorate council elections, President Salih announced various measures that would enable future governors and directors of the councils to be directly elected. In May 2008, governors were elected for the first time. However, because the ruling party, the General People’s Congress (GPC), continues to dominate the local and governorate councils, the May 2008 elections retained this party’s executive authority over the governorates. In rural Yemen, direct state control is weak, with tribal confederations acting as autonomous sub-states.[6]

See also


  1. ^ "Yemen UN Envoy: Transition Will Be Beyond 2 Years".  
  2. ^ [2]
  4. ^ [3]
  5. ^ [4]
  6. ^ Country profile: Yemen. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (August 2008).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

External links

  • [5] Government of Yemen
  • [6] Unofficial website of the Parliament of Yemen
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