Yemen’s vice president issued a decree on Wednesday approving the formation of a government of national unity as agreed under a Gulf-brokered deal aimed at ending months of bloody unrest.
The decree by Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi establishes a cabinet comprised of 34 ministerial positions equally divided between President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s party and the opposition.
The new government, headed by prime minister Mohammed Basindawa, will carry out its duties for three months, after which elections will be held and Hadi will formally take over the presidency.
Its formation is in line with a Gulf Cooperation Council plan, which is backed by the United Nations, for Saleh to transfer his powers to his deputy in return for immunity from prosecution for him and his family.
Saleh’s ministers for foreign affairs and defence, Abu Bakr al-Kurbi and Mohammad Nasser Ahmad Ali respectively, have retained their old posts, according to the decree published by state news agency Saba.
However, the interior ministry has been entrusted to a member of the opposition, Abdelqader Qahtani, and the human rights portfolio goes to Huria Mashhur, spokeswoman of the National Council, an opposition umbrella group.
“The revolution still in progress until achieving its all goals and the coalition government is the first step,” Mashhur tweeted in English after the decree.
“Political consensus was important to rescue Yemen. All options remain open for the youth and they should continue guarding the revolution.”
In addition to the interior portfolio going to Qahtani, who is close to the opposition Islamist Al-Islah (Reform) party, Islah member Mohammed Said al-Saadi becomes planning and international cooperation minister.
Two opposition independents, Sakher al-Wajih and Ali Ahmed al-Amarani, become finance and information ministers respectively.
“The formation of the government… is a positive sign which makes me optimistic,” said an opposition spokesman, Mohammed Qahtan.
He said he hoped the new cabinet would help “to get the country out of the tunnel,” and said the continuing lack of security in Yemen “will be a priority for the interim authorities.”
Outgoing deputy information minister Abdo Janadi expressed the wish to see the new cabinet “work sincerely to put the economy and security on the right track.”
This would require “sincere efforts from the parties” in the new coalition government, added Janadi, a Saleh supporter.
After months of stalling, Saleh finally signed the Gulf-brokered power transfer agreement in Riyadh on November 23.
The opposition had warned on Saturday it would not go ahead with forming a unity government until a military commission was formed and fighting stopped in Taez where 31 people were killed in clashes between the army and dissident tribesmen.
State media reported later the same day that a ceasefire had come into effect after Hadi called for an end to the fighting, which erupted on Thursday, and for troops and militiamen to withdraw.
He also formed the 14-member military commission under his chairmanship. Its task under the Riyadh accord is to restructure the security forces and oversee the removal of weapons from streets.