As efforts to end the war in Yemen continue, several crucial issues remain unresolved, hindering the possibility of reaching a comprehensive and conclusive political settlement that could provide a minimum level of stability in the country and put an end to the conflict.
The foremost among these lingering challenges is the structure of the Yemeni state, a sensitive topic that has yet to find consensus among the parties involved.
Addressing the Yemeni state's future structure requires tackling critical issues such as the relationship between state and religion, the unity of the state, and the central government's relationship with other regional leaders.
The national dialogue conference held from March 2013 to March 2014 addressed several of these issues, including the relationship between the state and religion and the potential approval for federalism.
However, the conference delegates did not specify the number of regions to be divided into, leaving it to a committee formed by the president, which resolved the disagreements over federalism in less than a month.
However, approving the six federal regions envisioned by the committee was rejected by some significant political forces, including various factions of the Southern Movement, the Socialist Party, and the divided People's Congress Party, one of whose two wings is loyal to late President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the other to the Houthis.
Conflicting visions for state’s future
While the official focus has been on federalism, behind the scenes, some powerful southern entities have called for secession, although they were not involved in the conference.
Meanwhile, the Houthis laid out surprisingly open-minded theoretical policies about women and the state's secularism at the national dialogue conference, but in reality, they implemented the opposite of this utopian vision in the Sa’ada province under their control.
As the conflict in Yemen escalated, the visions for the state's future became more distinct, with significant contradictions from those proclaimed before without official embellishments.
Southern factions, favouring secession and the establishment of an independent state in the south, have become more visible on the southern stage, with even more powerful armament, making it challenging to ignore or avoid their vision, unlike in the previous national dialogue conference.