Sana’a: Yemen’s Al Houthi movement on Monday refused to approve the draft of a new constitution because of a clause dividing the country into six regions.
On Sunday, even before news of the new constitution came out, the leader of the movement, Abdul Malek Al Houthi, announced that his movement rejects the country’s division into six regions.
Olfat Dobai, a member of the constitution-drafting panel, said that the Al Houthis’ representative in the panel, Abdul Raham Al Mukhtar, refused to sign the draft of the constitution, making no mention of the reason.
Dobai said that there was jubilant mood within the panel after the writing the constitution in Abu Dhabi, adding that the Al Houthis “ruined” that moment.
“Our joy was cut short when the Al Houthi representative refused to sign the draft,” she said on her Facebook page.
Al Houthi rebels have radically altered the political landscape in the troubled country when they swiftly gained control of the capital and many other provinces in September.
In the northern province of Sa’ada, the province’s bastion, Ali Al Gohoum, a spokesperson for the movement, told Gulf News that the movement has made it clear from day one of the transitional period that they are against dividing the country into six regions, signaling that his movement may approve a two-region division.
“We rejected the new constitution because it legislated dividing the country into six regions,” he said.
Yemen officially approved turning the country into a six-region federal state in February last year despite opposition from Al Houthis and some hardline factions of the separatist Southern Movement.
The north of Yemen will be divided into four regions and two other regions will be in the south, according to the proposal.
Despite rejecting the proposal in the early days and favouring a two-region solution, the Socialist Party, the ruling party in the former South Yemen state and a leading opposition party, approved the new constitution.
Al Gohoum said that Al Houthis rebuffed the division since it was approved “hastily” after the National Dialogue Conference or transitional talks that approved the federalism proposal.
“We think that six-region federalism was approved without in-depth studies. Now, we propose forming a committee of experienced people to examine what kind of federalism suits Yemen.” Al Gohoum said.
Hours after the Al Houthis rejection to the new constitution, Yemen president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi sent his senior advisers to Saada to convince the Al Houthis to have second thought on the division.
Sami Ghaleb, a political analyst, told Gulf News that the Al Houthis could agree to the division in exchange for giving their movement more authority in the capital and other province.
“Al Houthis did not mind splitting the country into two regions since it will keep the north united and under their command. Also, the southern region will be controlled by them since the capital of the federal state is Sana’a, which is under their control.”
If the presidential delegation make a breakthrough in Sa’ada and Al Houthis agreed to the new constitution, said Ghaleb, the new constitution will be reviewed by the National Supervisory Authority of the national dialogue outcomes to determine that the new charter does not contradict with the outcomes of the transitional talks. After that, the constitution will be available to the public for discussion and public’s feedback will considered. Finally, the president will call Yemenis to voice their say through a referendum.