Aden // Yemen’s parliament was convened on Saturday for the first time since civil war broke out last year in an attempt by the rebels to give legitimacy to their ruling council.
President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi condemned the move and asked MPs to stay away, and just 144 members of the 301-seat house attended amid a heavily armed rebel presence at the building in Sanaa.
All of the members who attended were supporters of the Houthi rebels and their ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Twenty-six MPs have died since parliament last convened nearly two years ago while others have fled the rebel-held capital for other parts of Yemen or to go abroad after the Houthis seized the capital in 2014.
The head of the parliament, Yahyah Al Raei, a member of Mr Saleh’s General People’s Congress party, said all MPs should return to parliament. He then launched a debate on the political council appointed by the Houthis and Saleh’s party last week.
The United Nations has described the council as a violation of the rebels’ commitments to a peace process, which had involved months of talks in Kuwait.
The members of the council were announced the same day the UN-backed talks were put in hold.
The proceedings then moved to a vote as Mr Al Raei asked the members, “We support the agreement between GPC and Ansarallah [Houthis]. Do you agree?” and members said randomly “yes”.
The proceedings, which were broadcast by Houthi and Saleh TV stations, then moved to a vote as Mr Al Raei asked the members, “We support the agreement between GPC and Ansarallah [Houthis]. Do you agree?” MPs randomly said “yes”.
According to the constitution, more than 150 of the house’s MP must be present for a vote to be held.
Mr Hadi denounced the session as a “violation” of the constitution and a “crime punishable by law”.
“Whatever takes place at this meeting has no legal effects and cannot be implemented,” the president said.
Fadl Al Rabei, a political analyst based in Aden, said the Houthis and Saleh were trying to give legitimacy to the “supreme council”. Parliament only can be convened legally after it is liberated form rebel occupation or a political reconciliation deal is reached, he said.
Jets from the Saudi-led coalition backing Mr Hadi carried out strikes around Sanaa during the MPs’ meeting on Saturday, continuing a stepped-up air campaign following the suspension of the talks.
A Houthi spokesman said Sanaa airport would remain shut for at least three more days after being closed since Tuesday, and that the rebel delegation from the peace talks was still stranded in Muscat, where it had made a stopover after leaving Kuwait.
Rebels and aid workers said an air strike on a school on Saturday killed at least 10 children and wounded dozens more in Saada province. In Saudi Arabia, five foreign residents were wounded in suspected Houthi shelling from Yemen in the Jazan border region, the civil defence agency said.
Around 100 members of the Saudi forces and civilians have been killed inside the kingdom’s borders since the coalition campaign began.
The coalition, which last week released the report of an investigation into claims of civilian deaths in previous strikes, did not immediately comment.
The UN says that more than 6,400 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Yemen since fighting escalated in March last year.
* With additional reporting from Agence France-Presse