Protesters shout slogans during a rally in Sanaa earlier this month. (Reuters)
Yemen’s president on Monday appointed Khaled Bahah, the impoverished Arab country’s envoy to the United Nations, as prime minister, in a move welcomed by the Shi’ite Muslim Houthi group which now controls the capital Sanaa.
An aide to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said Bahah’s name had been among three proposed last week by the Houthi group after they rejected the earlier appointment of Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak as prime minister.
Bahah’s appointment is expected to help ease a political crisis triggered by the Houthis’ capture of Sanaa last month.
“We believe he (Bahah) is the right person (for the job),” said Abdelmalek al-Ejri, a member of the Houthi political bureau. “His appointment will help the country overcome the difficulties it is going through.”
Suicide bombers targeting the Houthis and an army camp killed at least 67 people last Thursday after Mubarak was forced to step down as prime minister after just hours in the job.
Bahah, who was born in 1965 and was educated at India’s University of Pune, served previously as oil minister before being appointed Yemen’s envoy to the United Nations.
His appointment comes under a power-sharing deal signed last month by the Houthis and other major political parties at Hadi’s presidential palace. The deal aims to bring the Houthis and the wing of a separatist group into a more inclusive government.
The Houthis, who have their main stronghold in the northern highlands of Yemen, alarmed top world oil exporter Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states when they seized Sanna after defeating forces loyal to an army general they accuse of being linked to a rival Sunni Muslim party.
The Houthis, who now control all aspects of life in Sanaa, have refused to leave the city until a new government is formed.
The United States and other Western and Gulf countries are worried that continued instability in Yemen could strengthen al Qaeda. They have supported a U.N.-backed political transition since 2012 led by Hadi that is meant to shepherd Yemen to stability after decades of autocracy.