The Fate of Yemeni «Legitimacy» and the Repercussions of its Survival on Yemen Crisis


Sun, 22-08-2021 05:20 PM, Aden

South24 | Analytics 

The narrative of asserting Yemeni legitimacy, or the so-called internationally recognized government, emerged following the Houthi group’s control of the capital, Sanaa, and the departure of the legitimate Yemeni President, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi early 2015. Therefore, Yemeni legitimacy is summarized in the person of President Hadi, first as a temporary authority to transfer Yemen from the state centralization to the federal state, in accordance with the Gulf initiative and its executive mechanism and the outcomes of the so-called Yemeni Dialogue Conference, and secondly as an internationally supported legitimate authority in accordance with UN Resolution 2216 in April 2015 in exchange for not recognizing the Houthi control of the country in late 2014.

All these legal documents that support the legitimacy of President Hadi are expressed in the so-called "three references" that the government of President Hadi always sets as a condition for resolving the Yemeni crisis, and they also constitute the strengths of Yemeni "legitimacy". But in terms of facts and events on the ground, there is no support for this narrative in light of the Houthis’ control over most of North and the STC over most of South, in return for the Hadi government remaining outside Yemen, in addition to the weakness and fragility of its role in light of the deteriorating humanitarian economic conditions. All of this prompted some Yemeni political parties to discuss the option of removing President Hadi. In conjunction with the appointment of the new UN envoy and the international call for a comprehensive political settlement that includes all the actors in the Yemeni crisis, which requires expanding the circle of recognition of these parties and thus withdrawing the international cover from the legitimacy of President Hadi.

The legitimacy of President Hadi.. Backgrounds and outcomes

On February 21, 2012 Hadi assumed the presidency of Yemen from his predecessor, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in the wake of the youth revolution that erupted in early 2011 and ended with the latter’s departure. Hadi remained Saleh's deputy with limited powers from late 1994 until the moment he became president. His long tenure as a deputy revealed his politically unrequired personality in a way that does not raise issues and therefore does not raise concerns. So once again, coincidence played its role in Hadi’s accession to the presidency of Yemen, after President Saleh responded to the political agreement to transfer his authority to the latter in accordance with the Gulf initiative and its executive mechanism and the consensus of all Yemeni parties. In addition, presidential elections were held in which Hadi was the only candidate as a formality that gives him more legitimacy. and political powers.

Despite this, the importance of President Hadi remained in waving the scarecrow of the political vacuum and the country's entry into an endless cycle of conflict. This was reflected in his resignation in protest against the Houthi “coup” and their takeover of the Northern capital, Sanaa, in September 2014 [1], when the House of Representatives was unable to decide on Hadi’s resignation at that time. Therefore, the latter's politically undesirable personality emerged, along with the dangers of entering the Yemeni state into a political vacuum.

From this point of view, the legitimacy of President Hadi derives its importance, in addition to that, regional and international concerns about the Houthi control of Yemen gained more importance, which was soon reinforced by the Arab and international consensus and the issuance of Resolution 2216, which identified it as the internationally recognized party.

On the other hand, the weaknesses of President Hadi’s legitimacy are represented in his excessive reliance on his aforementioned strength, which was reflected in his negligent performance, which he believed to be needed by all “local, regional and international” parties, and consequently, on the military level, he showed laxity in defending their political legitimacy, considering this as one of the parties’ tasks. Which expresses its concern about the Houthis' control of Yemen, on the other hand, on the political level, the government of President Hadi has failed to carry out its responsibilities towards the Yemeni people in light of the collapse of the economic and humanitarian situation in exchange for the flourishing of administrative and financial corruption.

In the beginning, the weakness of President Hadi’s political dynamism contributed to subjecting his legitimacy to what can be described as collective management, which was reflected in the expansion of the circle of advisors of different political affiliations, which affected Hadi’s political and military decisions, in addition to the Saudi-led intervention that embraced Hadi and his government and finally, absolute dependence on international support. But in the end, it seems that this presidential institution is beginning to fray due to its excessive belief in its importance and its excessive reliance on others to perform its duties on its behalf. Therefore, there are indications that some Yemeni parties are seeking to transfer the authority of President Hadi to a consensual deputy or a presidential council, which began to appear in parallel with Saudi tendencies that put double pressure on Hadi’s government, in addition to pushing the international community towards a comprehensive political settlement.

UN Resolution 2216

The international community stresses the need for a comprehensive political settlement that includes all the actors involved in the Yemeni crisis. However, there is an obstacle that lies in the references to the political solution included in UN Resolution 2216 that goes beyond recognition of the controlling parties on the ground, which requires the abolition of Resolution 2216 to prepare the political playing field for the participation of these parties, which necessarily means canceling the legitimacy of President Hadi and thus the actual transition to political consensus in the form of the state and its political identity between the parties to a comprehensive political settlement. This may determine the fate of the UN resolution, but it does not determine the fate of the Yemeni state. In the event that the Houthi group obtains recognition, such a matter may promote the occurrence of a scenario similar to the Afghan scenario.

On the other hand, the US side has previously indicated recognition of the Houthis, and recently expressed its desire to return the US embassy to Sanaa [2], while Saudi Arabia is accelerating the procedures for deporting Yemenis, especially workers in the south of the Kingdom, at a time when the government of President Hadi has not succeeded in persuading the Saudi side to reverse its decisions regarding All Yemeni expatriates. This comes in light of reports of US pressure for the return of the Yemeni government, which stemmed from the Riyadh Agreement, to Aden without prior conditions [3]. Meanwhile, the Houthis threaten to target British forces located in Al-Mahra Governorate, South Yemen [4].

All these indicators are somewhat close to a repetition of the Afghan scenario in Yemen, and they ultimately lead to putting "Yemeni legitimacy" before an unknown fate, especially with accusations of not committing to implement the Riyadh Agreement, as well as complicating the peace process on the side of the Iran-backed Houthi group.

Western diplomats increasingly believe that both side, the government and the Houthis, "are not serious about a settlement." It appears, according to an analysis published by the US Foreign Affairs Foundation, that "the two sides are using their differences over the terms of a possible deal as an excuse to avoid negotiations altogether."

According to the analysis, written by veteran analysts at the International Crisis Group, Michael Hanna and Peter Salisbury, “the Houthis see Marib as a bigger prize than a unified government, and Hadi and his allies fear they are too weak to survive as one part of that government.” Therefore, Foreign Affairs believes that "expanding the talks will reflect the current Yemeni reality, and thus make the political settlement more sustainable." [5]. 

Researcher in political affairs, resident at the South24 Center for News and Studies 
Photo: AFP