Houthi Chief Further Tightens Hold on State Institutions, Paving the Way for Iran-Like Rule
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The pro-Houthi government will be reshuffled as part of a radical change in state institutions in Sanaa, said the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group's chief on Wednesday amidst rising public fury over unpaid salaries and other corruption issues.
Speaking live on Houthi-run TV channels, Abdulmalek Al-Houthi said the first phase of change is replacing the current government with a technocratic one. Al-Houthi delivered the speech to thousands of people in multiple provinces in North Yemen who gathered in public squares to celebrate Prophet Mohammed's Birthday. He pledged to introduce better policies that will serve citizens better.
According to him, the first stage of reform will also correct the judiciary situation, address imbalances, and appoint qualified Islamic Sharia scholars and specialized academic cadres.
Four hours after his speech, the Sanaa-based National Defence Committee said it held a meeting with Houthi-appointed president Mahdi Al-Mashat, announcing the dismissal of the current government headed by Abdulaziz bin Habtoor, authorizing it to manage public affairs, except for appointment and dismissal, until a new government is formed.
Over the past months, public anger against the Houthi group intensified in several provinces in North Yemen. Teachers in Sanaa went on strike, demanding the payment of their salaries, which remained unpaid since 2016. Civilians also have been fed up with the Houthi practices, such as imposing heavy taxes on the private sector and repressing people's freedom.
Today's Houthi decision to replace the current government is a step towards tightening their control of state institutions in Sanaa and other provinces. It also signals the end of their alliance with the General People's Congress (GPC), which assisted them in 2014 to take over Sanaa. The Houthis toppled the UN-recognized government in 2015 and established a new one divided between them and the GPC.
Bin Habtoor belongs to the GPC and has been heading the Sanaa-based government since 2016. With the Houthi decision on a government reshuffle, the Houthi-GPC alliance seems to have expired.
Civilians in Yemen fear the Houthi group will replicate Iran's governance system, where the Supreme Leader is the ultimate authority in the country. This matter will create a sectarian state, civilians say.
Since April of this year, the Yemeni public has been hopeful about ending the conflict, especially after the Houthi-Saudi direct talks for the first time since the war broke out in 2015. A Houthi delegation visited Riyadh this month, meeting with Saudi officials to discuss the end of the war in Yemen. The results of the Riyadh negotiations have not been declared so far.
Informed sources told Sheba Intelligence one week ago that the Houthi group has agreed to Saudi demands to create a demilitarized buffer zone along the Yemen-Saudi border, and the buffer is twenty kilometers deep. However, the sources said Iran interfered to disrupt the Houthi-Saudi agreement. According to the sources, Iran instructed the Houthi delegation to demand Saudi Arabia to recognize their authority in North Yemen.
According to Yemeni political observers, the Houthi declaration of a new government today augments the group's dominance over power and people in North Yemen. The group will enter future wars, in case of failure of talks, acting as a separate country in northern Yemen.