State and politics
According to the 1991 Constitution (with amendments 1994
and 2001), Yemen is an Arab and Islamic republic, Islam is
state religion and Arabic is the official language. The head
of state is the president, who is elected in direct
elections for a term of seven years and can be re-elected
once. The president is also commander-in-chief and appoints
himself the vice-president and the entire government
(following proposals from the prime ministerial candidate).
Parliament's lower house, Majlis an-nuwab,
consists of 301 members elected in general elections for six
years. The members of the upper house, majlis ash-shura,
are appointed by the president. According to the 1994
constitutional amendment, the Islamic law of sharia is the
only basis for the legislation. The first parliamentary
election after the country's unification was held in 1993.
Only about 30 percent of the approximately 5,000
candidates were affiliated with political parties, with the
rest standing as independent. GPC GPs won 123 seats. Islah,
an association of conservative clan leaders and Islamic
fundamentalists, received 62 seats. Yemen's socialist party,
YSP, received 56 seats. In later elections, GPC's dominance
has been strengthened and opposition parties have declined.
Since 2016, Yemen has been missing a functioning
parliament due to the ongoing conflict in the country. Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of YE and its meanings of Yemen.
After the 1994 civil war, Parliament confirmed President
Ali Abdullah Saleh's power holdings for a five-year term. He
was re-elected in 1999 and again in 2006. Many members of
the socialist YSP were imprisoned after the civil war. The
war meant that democratic development in the country
Freedom of the press for broadcasting and human rights
was exempted. Discontent in the former South Yemen increased
during the 1990s and the regime was put under strong
pressure by a united opposition front. In spring 2011, mass
protests began against Saleh's regime.
After unsuccessful attempts to violate the protests,
Saleh was forced to resign in November 2011, nine months
after the demonstrations began. Formally, Saleh resigned in
February 2012, when former Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur
al-Hadi took over after winning an election without
After the change of power, separatist tensions rose
further in the country. In the south, al-Qaeda strengthened
its positions and in the north, the Shiite Muslim Shire
rulers gradually took over power by force. Several attacks
carried out by the al-Qaeda terrorist network in the Arabian
Peninsula have led the US to increase its military presence
in Yemen, and several drone attacks have been carried out
against targets of al-Qaeda.
Following a lengthy dialogue conference in 2013, it was
decided on guidelines for a new constitution that would give
increased autonomy to the different regions. Yemen was
proposed to be a federal state consisting of six regions.
This did not appease the separatists, who continued to
demand al-Hadi's departure.
In the fall of 2014, the Huthira rebels besieged Sana,
and in January 2015, they managed to enter the presidential
palace and force al-Hadi and the government to resign. The
Huthirebels then appointed their own presidential council
based in Sana to govern the country. Parliament was
dissolved and a so-called revolutionary transition council
was set up. Shortly thereafter, al-Hadi withdrew its
resignation, which won support from the country's military
and population as well as Saudi Arabia.
Tensions in the country have escalated since the conflict
between al-Hadi's critics and his supporters has worsened,
and Yemen has since been divided into the territory
controlled by the huhirebels and other areas where different
tribes and groups rule. In these areas, the influence varies
between representatives who are more or less loyal to al-Hadi.
The conflict is further complicated by the large groups in
southern Yemen fighting for the restoration of an
independent South Yemen.
There are 2018 war permits in Yemen and parliamentary
work is non-existent. Local and regional authorities also
lack opportunities to carry out their normal tasks.
Resources are lacking and it is impossible to hold any
elections in Yemen during the current state. The country is
in political limbo.
The legal system in Yemen is based mainly on Islamic law,
sharia, to which comes local customary law and some
modern legislation, such as a civil law from 1992. The death
penalty is punished for some serious crimes.
Respect for human rights is critically low in Yemen. The
government is unable to control either rival tribes,
widespread lawlessness, the establishment of terrorist cells
or the extreme poverty that characterizes the everyday lives
of the residents. Contradictions between past warriors
during the civil war that characterized the country (see
History) are a nationwide problem in the form of conflicts
Like many other countries in the Middle East, Yemen was
also hit by violent confrontations between government forces
and civilians during the Arab Spring as months of bloody
fighting took place.
According to Human Rights Watch, extra-judicial
executions and arbitrary detention occur both from
government teams and from rebel groups, and the judiciary is
characterized by corruption.
Torture is prohibited by law but is common, both in the
country's prisons and in connection with arrests and
interrogation of suspects. State officials are immune to
Although the Constitution guarantees freedom of assembly
and association, there are reports that the government's
security forces have on several occasions used violence
against peaceful protesters. Many are arrested without
notice of criminal suspicion and subjected to torture during
Women are extremely vulnerable. The Global Gender Gap
Report, which examines equality between men and women
in the countries of the world (2013) places Yemen in last
place for the eighth consecutive year and the national
interpretation of religious Sharia law contributes to the
discrimination. Forced marriage of girls in the lower teens
is commonplace and girls and women are under guardianship.
Women incarcerated can only be released if a male guardian
accepts this. When women's prison stay is traditionally
stigmatized, it usually leads to women remaining in prison.
Genital mutilation is a widespread phenomenon, although
prohibited by law. Honor-related crimes are not punishable,
nor are rapes within the marriage.
Freedom of expression and press are guaranteed in the
Yemen's constitution, but national legislation prohibits
criticism of the head of state and the publication of
material that is considered immoral. There are reports
showing violence against and murder of journalists who have
broken the decree or who have reported demonstrations
against the government. Reporters Without Borders places
Yemen in place 168 out of 180 countries in this year's Press
Freedom Index (2015).
Yemen has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, but its application has been neglected. Child
soldiers occur among both government forces and rebels and
child labor is common, the latter mainly in rural areas. For
this, children are at risk of sexual abuse and trafficking.
Reports show that one in three children suffers from chronic
The death penalty can be punished for homosexual acts,
conversion from Islam and serious violent crimes.
Heads of State
Northern Yemen (1962-90)
||Abd Allah Sallal
||Abd ar-Rahman al-Iryani
||Ali Abdullah Saleh
South Yemen (1967-90)
||Salim Rubay Ali
||Ali Nasir Muhammad
||Abd al-Fattah Ismail
||Ali Nasir Muhammad
||Haydar Abu Bakr al-Attas
||Ali Abdullah Saleh
||Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi