Pro-Saleh Bloc Struggles to Retain Political Weight in Yemen

Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh talks during an interview with Reuters in Sanaa May 21, 2014. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Aden- Yemen’s General People’s Congress a predominantly nationalist bloc backing the ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh have been increasingly holding conferences and meetings in insurgency-held areas without their coup ally, Iran-allied Houthis.

The upsurge in social activity started coincidently with the commencement of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, some 20 days ago.

The evenings saw the distribution of new party membership cards, a move that raised many questions, local sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

What is more is that a dubious revision of memberships was the highlight of most meetings.

“There is a large effort being spent on rallying supporters in local and residential neighborhoods—such as hosting Ramadan evenings in hopes of mobilizing loyalists, not only in Sanaa, but across other provinces such as Jawf, Amran and Dhamar,” said a Sanaa-based party leader.

The campaign led by the pro-Saleh political wing provokes memories of a similar approach the bloc launched in 1990 after the Yemeni Unification.

Campaigning strategy focused on state employees, school and university students, in a tactic aiming at systematic polarization. Most of the then campaign was determined on marginalizing the other political party, the Yemeni Socialist Party.

People’s Congress Party Leader Yasser al-Awadhi, said in statements quoted by the party’s official website, that the campaign is “to bring together supporters.”

He reiterated the party’s support for the insurgency pro-Saleh loyalists staged hand in hand with Iran-backed Houthis.

On the other hand, sources said that the move aims to patch whatever schism there is in hopes of stopping a pro-government cabinet session in Aden next month.

The General People’s Congress party was established in 1982 in Sana’a, North Yemen, by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Following Yemeni unification in 1990, and with Saleh continuing as president of the united country, it emerged as the largest party in the 1993 parliamentary elections, winning 123 of the 301 seats.

Saleh was re-elected as President in the first direct presidential elections in 1999, and the party won a landslide victory in the 2003 parliamentary elections, winning 226 of the 301 seats. Saleh was re-elected again in 2006. After Saleh was forced to stand down as a result of the Yemeni revolution, the party’s Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi was elected as his successor.