Feb. 17-23: Negotiations in question as Hadi challenges Houthi rule

Local news coverage during the Last week has again been focused on the political process intended to fill the void left by the resignation of the president and the government last month. The political parties involved in UN-led talks reportedly agreed to form a new national legislative body which would include representatives of underrepresented groups in addition to the incumbent members of Yemen’s parliament. The new body would add 250 members to the current roster of 301 members of parliament. It is not clear yet how the new members would be chosen; proclamations made recently by Ansar Allah—the Houthi movement’s political leadership—suggest that the movement’s so-called Revolutionary Committees would appoint new legislators. The Houthis dissolved the sitting parliament by revolutionary decree earlier this month.

Despite the relative ease in the ongoing talks between rival parties, opponents of the Houthi movement accused UN special envoy Jamal Benomar of "legitimizing" what they called the "Houthi coup." Such accusations were implicitly reinforced by the Gulf Cooperation Coucil, which demanded that the UN Security Council adopt a resolution against the Houthis under Chapter VII, which would open the way for possible economic and military measuresRussia and China have been featured in the local media as the main powers that opposed such a resolution, calling instead for supporting the ongoing UN talks "without imposing ready-made solutions from the outside."

President Hadi, who had been under house arrest in capital Sanʻa since he was forced to resign last month, appeared in the southern port city of Aden on February 21, after militia men loyal to him captured parts of the city last week. Hadi issued a statement upon his arrival, positioning himself as the legitimate president of the republic and calling on the international community to regard all steps taken by the Houthis since September as null and illegitimate. It's not yet clear how Hadi made it, amid strict security measures, out of his house and through several checkpoints manned by the Houthis. Unnamed Houthi sources claimed that Hadi was disguised in woman clothes during his escape. Other news suggested that the Houthis let Hadi out under pressure from the UNSC to release him without condition.

Hadi’s escape gave him, along with his old allies in the opposition coalition, a strong position from which to negotiate with Ansar Allah. Backed by Saudi Arabia and the GCC, Hadi has called for negotiations be moved to a safe place. The GCC issued a statement on Monday welcoming Hadi's exit to Aden and pledged its full support for the transition.