MPs blast Houthi election plan as unlawful attempt to gain legitimacy

With dozens of MPs under arrest, dead or having fled the capital, rebels seek to fill parliament with loyalists

Members of Yemen's parliament attend held by the parliament for the first time since a civil war began almost two years ago in Sanaa, Yemen August 13, 2016. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
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Yemeni MPs have blasted plans by Houthi to hold a divisive election to fill parliamentary seats held by those who have refused to join the rebels and have fled the occupied capital of Sanaa.

MP Ahmed Saif Hashed said the plan to hold an election was unlawful and would solely serve to deepen the rift between supporters of the government and the rebels. The now almost exclusively Houthi-controlled parliament in Sanaa instructed the Yemeni Supreme Committee for Elections this weekend to draw up plans to replace representatives who are working with the internationally recognised government.

"There is no use in taking such a step, whatever the Houthis do to try and legitimise their existence it will remain unlawful," Mr Saif Hashed told The National. "Even if they hold such an election, the Parliament they will control will still be unlawful."

Dozens of Yemeni officials have fled the rebel-controlled capital to continue working for the government based between Aden and Saudi Arabia. The last election was in 2003, years before the Houthis overran much of the country and took control of Sanaa.

Mr Hashed also said that the few independent representatives who have refused to join either side are struggling as they are no longer being paid and do not have the backing of any powerful faction.

Mohammed Al Hazmi, MP for the city of Marib, told The National that he believes the Houthis are seeking to block the government who called for an open session of parliament to be held in Aden. He said the move was also being seen as an implicit threat against the independents who are still in the capital that they could be replaced, in a bid to make them join the rebels.

"Lawfully, they can't hold such an election because the president of the country is the only one who is lawfully authorised to call for a vote," Mr Al Hazmi said.

Mohammed Al Maswari, the lawyer for former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and now a senior official in the governing General People’s Congress – led by President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi – said the attempt to hold elections was totally unlawful given that so many people from his party were under house arrest in Sanaa and forced to attend Parliament and vote by the Houthis.

The Yemeni parliament is made up of 301 MPs elected for a six-year term. The election in 2009 was postponed by the then president Saleh, who faced a boycott from a coalition of smaller parties after failing to negotiate a new body to oversee the vote.

With the growing unrest in south Yemen and the mounting anger and rebellion in the northern Saada province by Houthis – who would later spill out of the area and capture much of the country – the election was delayed again. By the time the 2015 election was meant to be held, the country was divided and the war raged.