Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik (designed by South24 Center)

An Anticipated New Yemeni Government: Formation and Urgent Measures


Sat, 20-01-2024 10:30 AM, Aden Time

Informed sources told ‘South24 Center’ that the current Finance Minister Salem Saleh bin Brek, who is from Hadramout, is the most prominent nominee to succeed Maeen Abdulmalik.

Farida Ahmed (South24)

More than three years after its formation in December 2020, the “parity government”- which is equally divided between North and South - led by Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik, has fallen short of the Yemenis’ expectations. Now, the departure of this government has become imminent as the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) has discussed for days the appointment of a new prime minister. ’South24 Center‘ has learned that PLC’s President Rashad Al-Alimi bid a warm farewell to Maeen Abdulmalik in Riyadh, in an indication of the appointment of a new prime minister. 

The name of the Maeen Abdulmalik government has been repeatedly linked to corruption. Since 2016, its performance hasn’t been much different from its predecessor Ahmed Dagher government. Although Abdulmalik led a government for two years before the current parity government was formed, both of them are characterized by failure and weakness. This includes the ministerial bloc affiliated with the Southern Transitional Council (STC) as some of its members turned a blind eye many times to corrupt dealings and many aspects of its failure.

The exclusion of women in the ’Riyadh Agreement’s government* - for the first time in Yemen - was the first point of failure. The government proved that it was formed only as a result of a sharing deal among political parties, which probably made the government lose its practical effect on the ground.

In addition to the fact the Maeen Abdulmalik Government was formed in order to get out from the state of conflict that had erupted in South Yemen in 2018 and 2019 against the Islamist Islah Party and its affiliated parties during the Presidency of Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi, hopes had been pinned on it to save the country from the deteriorating economic and humanitarian conditions. Although the government broadly succeeded in reducing the renewal of the conflict, it failed in taking steps for economic regeneration or boosting the services sector, even after the formation of the PLC in Riyadh in April 2022, When Maeen Abdulmalik was first appointed as Prime Minister in 2018, the price of one US dollar was less than 90 Yemeni riyals. However, price of a US dollar against the Yemeni riyal has reached 1,500. 

More broadly, the attacks by the Iran–backed Houthi militia against the oil-exporting ports in Hadramout and Shabwa, weeks after the expiration of the UN-mediated humanitarian truce in October 2022, have added to the burden and pressure on the government. The Houthi attacks have caused a recession in the oil exports and a decrease in customs revenues due to the decline of international maritime traffic to the Port of Aden in favor of the Port of Al-Hodeida. Furthermore, the electricity stations in Aden have been out of service in many areas controlled by the government including in Aden. The inability to bear the costs of fuel needed to operate these electricity stations has led to a big crisis in the country.

Meanwhile, other corruption cases - in which the government and the Prime Minister are accused of being involved - have contributed to the deterioration of the living, economic and service conditions, while the humanitarian needs have witnessed a massive increase. Moreover,  other corruption cases have been raised by PLC Member ’Abulrahman Al-Hamrami‘ against the government. He has demanded forming a committee to investigate these cases, which include the seizure of $45 million monthly by Maeen’s office. This is in addition to issues related to over employment by attachés in Yemeni embassies abroad and the consequent inflated costs while the Prime Minister has refused to take any measures to tackle this. 

This has also added to the public discontent in the areas controlled by the Abdulmalik government. Repeatedly, demonstrators have expressed their disapproval about the government’s performance. Over the past years, some demonstrations were organized that accused the government of corruption. Thus, the recognized governments that were formed after the outbreak of the conflict in Yemen in 2014 appear to have been beset with problems related to their functionality and economic performance. One of the reasons is the growing disintegration of the consensual approach among the Yemeni parties at the political and military levels along with their differences regarding the main goals and the issues they adopt. 

The foundations of the formation

The output of the ’National Dialogue‘ in 2023 legitimized the parity between South and North following pressure by the then Southern participants in the conference. However, the STC has pressed for the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement 2020* based on the reality produced by the war. It is important to state that all proposed principles within the frame of the current state can be disagreed or agreed upon except for “the parity”. The 50-50 aspect will remain the same even if the governments change. The same principle later was applied to the PLC which includes four Southern and four Northern members including its Chairman. This is considered a big progress in the Yemeni file that will lay the path for broader future measures, although the Southern political voices believe that the parity principle is not realistic. Thus, they have called for an independent self-administration for South Yemen or a government whose Southern quota is more than 50%. Those who espouse this opinion mainly justify it with the fact that North Yemen is under control of the Iran-backed Houthis.

Southerners have long convincingly argued that they have to command a 50% participation in political decision-making before reaching a final solution to the South cause. Therefore, they are now in a strong position that allows them to bear the responsibility of managing their situation, whether within the PLC or the government. The new anticipated prime minister will likely be from South Yemen, according to multiple speculations. Informed sources told ’South24 Center‘ that the current Finance Minister Salem Saleh bin Brek, who is from Hadramout, is the most prominent nominee to succeed Maeen Abdulmalik. It is still unknown if the changes will include all ministers or some of them. Since 2015, the political and military alliances in the areas controlled by the recognized government have changed. Some parties have declined in importance while others have risen. As part of the activation of the role of new alliances, each party will now have to select its representatives. 

The relentless efforts by Saudi-led Yemeni parties to form political entities in South Yemen are seen as attempts to impact the political scene in order to reduce the share and importance of the STC, which is the most popular entity in South Yemen. For example, on January 9, 2024 the city of Seiyun in Hadramout witnessed the announcement of a Preparatory Committee to establish a “Unified Council for the Eastern Governorates” with more than 200 figures. According to the declaration, the council aims to unify the four governorates of Hadramout, Al-Mahra, Shabwa, and Socotra. Many Southerners look at this new formation as another Saudi attempt to counter the STC’s influence in order to secure positions in these governorates, whether in the new government or after an anticipated political settlement. The formation of the new Eastern Council was preceded by the establishment of the National Hadramout Council which has been also sponsored by Riyadh. It was met with strong Southern rejection due to the links between its members and the Northern political parties, including the Islah and the ’Congress’, and as an attempt to distract efforts to unite the Southern ranks. 

Previous papers by 'South24 Center’ said that the entire emerging political entities were formed in South Yemen. They avoid North Yemen which is largely divided. This is an indication that the Northern political leaders, who motivate the establishment of such entities with Southern names, want to retain their clout and authority in South Yemen. The establishment of the Eastern Council is an addition to their efforts along with Saudi Arabia to advance peace agreements with the Houthis away from the ongoing pressure from the STC. 

Urgent measures

Regardless of the political division issue in the areas controlled by the legitimate authority, there is a need for extensive government intervention to correct the most urgent aspects of its failure. This should be the responsibility of its ministers, foremost of whom will be the new Prime Minister, to mitigate the stifling economic and living crises in the country amid a state of rising popular anger. Reforming the National Counter Corruption Authority and activating the Central Authority for Control and Accountability to do their supervisory role on the government institutions will reduce the instances of big corruption operations like those carried out during the Abdulmalik government’s administration. Activating the role of the judiciary will establish the rules of accountability and prosecution for all violations and crimes, and will clearly contribute to enhancing security and stability in areas under government control.

One of the priorities of any upcoming government is to initiate economic measures to develop resources, find practical solutions to limit the collapse of the local currency, as well as ensure the provision of vital services such as healthcare, electricity, and water.

Prior to that, it will be important for the government to submit its programs to the PLC in case of the inability to complete the structure of the House of Representative due to the current political circumstances. The PLC can instruct the government on the issue of preparing budgets and approving annual ones. Additionally, the government will have to design near-term and long-term strategies, use the impact measurement tools and verify the achievement of targets more clearly. Based on this approach, the Yemeni parties in the recognized government will be seen as responsible in case of any subsequent violations. 

Accordingly, the government will also have to enhance the cohesion on the internal front and restore popular trust in the areas under its control before reaching any political agreement for an accord with the Houthis. This will enhance its political and economic stance. The absence of a strong government that can stem the ongoing economic collapse and improve the conditions, will weaken it further and ultimately solidify the Houthi position. This will in turn encourage the Houthis for escalation and help them extract more concessions and gains on the ground for themselves. 

The escalation of Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden as well as the group’s involvement in a direct confrontation with the international community, especially after the American-British air strikes on the group’s military sites last week, may have severe economic repercussions. There are signs that have already begun to emerge, including the growing prices of maritime shipping to Yemen. This can paralyze the navigation traffic from and to the Yemeni ports and threaten the inflow of the main food products which are mostly imported from abroad. This is in itself a difficult early test on the table of the new prime minister.

Days after this analysis was published in Arabic, press sources indicated that the decision to change the prime minister had been postponed to an indefinite time. This is likely due to the escalation of the conflict in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden with the ongoing Houthi attacks.

*The parity government was established in accordance with the terms of the Riyadh Peace Agreement jointly signed in November 2019 between the Yemeni government and the STC's leaders.

*The Riyadh Agreement resulted in the formation of a 50-50 government on December 18, 2020, between North and South consisting of 24 ministries distributed as 13 for the Southerners, of which five portfolios belong to the STC while the share of North is 11 ministries, in addition to the position of prime minister.

Farida Ahmed 

Executive Director, South24 Center for News and Studies 

Note: This is a translated version of the original text written in Arabic

YemenSouth YemenNorth YemenParity GovernmentCorruptionMaeen Abdulmalik