Who represents the South?
Until last year, the term secessionist was very problematic politically and caused its believers many problems, from verbal abuse to illegal arrest. However, today, we have come a very long way, and the word is no longer a disgrace. In fact, those state opponents, who once demanded secession, are now political partners in the National Dialogue.
The Gulf Council Countries (GCC) Initiative and its implementation clearly indicate that the Southern Movement—also known as Hirak—should be represented. Moreover, all those involved in the dialogue agree that solving the Southern issue is key to the dialogue.
While politicians across the political spectrum have come to terms with accepting the Southern Movement’s presence at the dialogue, a new question arose: Who represents the South?
There is a clear difference between the Southern Movement and the South as a region. The movement itself is actually not one entity, though it is recognized as a political group. But the South, as a geographical affiliation and when it comes to numbers, has always been a minority.
For example, when the unity took place in 1990, Yemenis from the North numbered 16 million, compared to four million in the South. Today, Southerners hold less than 9 percent of all management-level government jobs.
Moreover, the resource distribution to Southern governorates has always been advantageous to the North, including resources from Southern soil such as the fuel from Hadramaut and Shabwa.
Today, there is a general agreement that Southerners should make up at least 50 percent of the participants in the National Dialogue groups, focusing on Southern issues. This is very problematic for the Southern Movement.
In principle this may sound more than fair, considering the South is smaller in population but treated as a political equal. Yet, being from the South could mean anything regarding political affiliation. For example, how would a hardliner, General Peoples Congress politician from Aden be categorized? Would his stance be considered that of his party or that of his geographical origin?
The Hirak are afraid to be cheated out of their right, as they see it, as the sole representative of Southern issues. While it is true that the Hirak is what put the Southern issue on the map, it may be politically incorrect to say they are the sole representatives of the Southern region.
Simultaneously, what if the other parties lobbied their southern members and became a majority in the agreed 50 percent quota for the south?
This is a very serious question, one that could potentially ruin the National Dialogue, not only for the South, but for the entire country.