Information Minister Nadia Sakkaf is once again claiming the “completion of a coup” in Yemen today, after reports that the Houthi rebels have taken over President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s presidential palace.
Hadi was not in the palace at the time, and was reported to be at his personal residence. There were later reports of clashes around Hadi’s private residence as well.
The exact situation in Sanaa remains unclear, but claims of a “coup” may be hasty, as the Houthis and the Hadi government have been clashing on and off for months, and the Information Ministry has cried coup repeatedly.
President Hadi took power in February 2012, after a UN-imposed “election” in which no opposition candidates were allowed, and “no” votes were similarly not an option. Hadi was a top military leader, and seen as the handpicked successor to previous military dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. The US and UN followed the election with threats to sanction any Yemeni politicians who were publicly opposed to the vote, and the Obama Administration made much of the vote being a “template” for other elections in the region.
Hadi continued the long-standing hostility toward the Houthis, backing Sunni tribes settling in the Houthis’ traditional homeland in the far north. After routing those tribes, the Houthis took positions in the capital city last year, and have maintained them ever since.
This has led to repeated clashes with the Hadi government, and shows of force by the Houthis when parts of the promised reform, in this case the new draft constitution, were not delivered as expected.