December 18, 2014 / 12:58 PM / in 3 years

Yemeni PM Bahah's cabinet wins parliamentary approval: sources

SANAA (Reuters) - Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah’s cabinet won a parliamentary vote of confidence on Thursday, freeing it to tackle major challenges facing the country, including dealing with Shi‘ite Muslim Houthi militia who control the capital Sanaa.

Yemen's newly appointed Prime Minister Khaled Bahah listens to a reporter's questions at a news conference after his cabinet was sworn-in at the Presidential Palace in Sanaa November 9, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

The Houthis became the de facto power in Western-allied Yemen when they captured Sanaa in September. The Houthis, who have links to Shi‘ite Iran, portray their movement as a revolt against a corrupt political elite in their impoverished country.

Bahah’s government, composed of technocrats and politicians drawn from a range of parties, has the broad support of the Houthis but relations are not easy. Bahah suggested on Wednesday his government could resign after the rebels raided state institutions and sacked public officials.

“We will work with sincerity and seriousness to promote the integrity of all sectors in the government,” Bahah told parliament on Thursday.

“We will keep equal distance from all political elements and we will get through this current period.”

Parliamentary sources said a majority of lawmakers backed Bahah’s 36-member cabinet in the vote of confidence.

“A large majority of the parliamentary representatives, around 155, voted in favor of the government by a show of hands,” one lawmaker who did not want to be named told Reuters. Only five lawmakers voted against, the source added.

Lawmakers from former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress blocked an attempt on Tuesday to stage the confidence vote, in protest against the authorities’ decision to shut their party’s offices in the southern city of Aden.

The United Nations Security Council last month imposed financial sanctions on Saleh, accusing him of working with the Houthis to undermine political stability in Yemen, which shares a long border with the world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia.

Saleh was forced to step down after mass protests in 2011 after 30 years in power.

As well as dealing with the Houthi rebels and the sectarian risks they pose in majority Sunni Muslim Yemen, the Bahah government also faces security threats from al Qaeda militants and southern separatists.

Reporting by Mohamed Ghobari; Writing by Amena Bakr; Editing by Gareth Jones

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