Yemen parliament meets for first time since war began

Legislature convenes with 138 MPs in southern city of Sayoun

Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi attends the opening session of the 30th Arab League summit in the Tunisian capital Tunis on March 31, 2019.  / AFP / POOL / FETHI BELAID
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Yemen’s parliament successfully held its first session in four years on Saturday following the civil war that erupted towards the end of 2014.

President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik and ambassadors of 19 countries supporting the political transition in Yemen were among those in attendance in Sayoun, Hadramawt.

"Holding the first session of the parliament is a first step towards restoring the state institutions and activating them to boost the presence of the legitimate government in the liberated provinces in our country," "Mohammed Al-Hazmi, an MP involved in the session, told The National.

Mr Hazmi said it was “a spot of hope” to see MPs unified and “together under one roof representing the Yemeni people”.

He claimed the quorum had been met, something disputed by many, because some members joined on Skype. Saturday's session was held with 138 MPs, who flew to Riyadh before being flown to Sayoun.

“The first session confirmed the election of the presiding board represented by Al-Sheikh Sultan Al-Barakani as a speaker replacing Mr. Yehya Al-Raee who remained in Sanaa chairing the parliament which is controlled by the Houthi militia,” said Mr Al-Hazmi.

Three deputies were also selected and discussions held over the nominations for the different committees in the house of representatives.

Mr. Al-Hazmi said that parliament will continue holding its regular sessions from Hadramawt province and will hold a second session soon. The government is set to approve the annual budget and discuss its performance.

President Hadi urged the Houthi rebels to work towards peace during his address to the legislature.

"It is high time to stop your crimes, look at our torn country and displaced people,” Mr Hadi said. "Our country is yours. We extended our hand for peace and we do that again today.”

MPs who refused to join either the parliament loyal to President Hadi in Hadramawt or the one in Houthi-controlled Sanaa said that both parliaments are “unlawful” and don’t represent the Yemeni people.

"The session which was held by some representatives of those who are loyal to Hadi is unlawful. First of all the quorum wasn't achieved - I got accurate information from some colleagues (who) attended the session telling me that the quorum wasn't achieved because seven of those who agreed to take part in the session were missing" Ahmed Saif Hashid, an MP based in Sanaa, told The National.

It came as the Houthi’s were holding elections to replace the at least 35 MPs who have died since the rebels took Sana.

“Both the complementary elections held by the Houthis in Sana and the session held by the parliament which is loyal to president Hadi in Hadramawt are unlawful, the two steps aim to widen the rift in the body of the country and divide it” said Mr Hashid.

Before the Hadramawt session Houthi rebels stormed the homes of some legislators in Sanaa and warned them against taking part, the rebel-held Saba news agency reported on Wednesday.

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 Ali Abdullah Saleh, who faced a boycott from a coalition of smaller parties after failing to negotiate a new body to oversee the vote.