Yemen's de-facto rulers

With a weak president and divided military, the Shia Houthis are now widely seen as the country's real power.


    Ask a Yemeni who is running the country and you'll likely get this answer:

    "President Hadi is confined to his palace since the Houthis took control. Abdelmalik al-Houthi [leader of the Ansarallah Houthi group] is the de facto ruler and he's ruling from his northern stronghold of Sadaa."

    These views are widely held and have eroded the credibility of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to say nothing about Yemen's image.

    Now Hadi has appointed pro-Houthi Yemenis in key security positions. Many here think Hadi "has given Yemen to the Houthis on a silver platter".

    Consequently, anger is slowly building up anger in Yemen.

    For the first time since the crisis began in July, when the Zaidi Shia Houthis started their march to grab most of Yemen, hundreds of anti-Houthis took to the streets on Saturday in Sanaa, Taiz and other areas. They called on Hadi to leave.

    Hadi is seen as weak. He has no influence. His military's loyalties are divided along tribal and political lines.

    The rumour is that the military is still loyal to the deposed president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, which is why the Houthis' rise went largely unopposed. Saleh is widely seen as actively backing the Houthis.

    Army's old loyalties

    Hadi's government is regarded as even weaker than him.

    The ministry of information was stormed last week by armed Houthis.

    A minister complained that the fighters were using her office and photocopying all of her documents.

    She was told days earlier: "You won’t be able to appoint anyone [in state owned media] who is not a member of Ansarallah."

    The Houthis are now calling the shots in nearly all the state institutions and nothing can be done without their consent.

    Nevertheless, some say Hadi should not be written off.

    "Hang on, it’s not what you see," one colleague of Hadi told me. "Don’t underestimate the state or Hadi."

    He wants to get rid of his opponents.

    He's asked the US and the UN to put deposed Saleh on the UN sanctions list, effectively freezing his assets. Hadi is trying to get Saleh out of the country.

    Military campaigns

    Hadi allowed the Houthis and Saleh to get rid of the Islah Party – the political front for the Muslim Brotherhood – and some of the powerful figures close to it, who enjoyed huge influence in Yemen for decades.

    Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a longtime army general, is close to the Muslim Brotherhood. He is an enemy of both the Houthis and Saleh.

    He led all of the states' six military campaigns under the Saleh government against the Houthis. He also sided with the mass protests that led to the toppling of Saleh in 2012.

    For all we know, Hadi could be buying time and watching the rising anti-Houthi sentiment.

    He could be waiting for the right moment to fight the Houthis, once he sorts out the military and gets rid of his opponents.

    But critics of Hadi suggest he is giving in to the Houthis to secure the presidential seat - a suggestion probably originating from Saleh's supporters.

    Hadi and Saleh are now enemies. The latter wants Hadi out of the General People's Congress – the country’s biggest party, chaired by Saleh.

    It's all part of a an internal and regional political game, and the people of Yemen are paying the price.



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