In 1990, the Yemen Arab Republic (in the north) and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (in the south) united to form the Republic of Yemen. Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been president in the north since 1978, continued as president of the unified state.
Following unification, a multi-party system was established and in 1993 Yemen became the first country in the Arabian peninsula to hold competitive multi-party elections under universal suffrage. Numerous political parties were formed – most of them small – but the main parties were Saleh's General People's Congress (GPC), the Yemen Socialist Party which previously ruled in the south, and Islah ("Reform") – mainly an alliance of Islamist and tribal forces. In practice, however, parliamentary democracy did not bring peaceful rotation of power and for more than 20 years the political scene was dominated by Saleh's GPC.
Saleh [or Salih] remained in power until 2012 when he resigned in the wake of a popular uprising against his rule. He was succeeded by his long-term deputy, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who became president in an election where – contrary to the requirements of the constitution – he was the only candidate.
Saleh had stepped down as part of a transition plan negotiated by the Gulf Cooperation Council states, with UN and western backing. However, the plan allowed Saleh to remain in Yemen where he worked to undermine the transition process, later forming an alliance with the Houthi rebels (based in the far north of the country) with whom his regime had previously fought a series of wars.
In 2014, with Saleh's backing, the Houthis over-ran the capital, Sanaa, causing Hadi to flee – first to the southern city of Aden and then to Saudi Arabia. The Houthi/Saleh alliance rapidly extended its control to other parts of the country, which in March 2015 prompted military intervention led by the Saudis which was still continuing more than a year later.
The result is that Yemen currently (2016) has two rival governments – one led by the Houthis, the other headed by Hadi.
International Crisis Group
Recent reports about Yemen
Yemen: challenges for the future
London conference report, 2013
Speech by President Saleh
25 September 2011. The first speech delivered by Saleh after his return from Saudi Arabia where he had been recovering following an assassination attempt.
Yemen transition agreement, 2011
English translation of the power transfer agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council setting out the terms under which President Saleh would leave office.
Yemen corruption assessment
USAID, September 2006
He who rides the lion
Authoritarian rule in a plural society.
By Omar Daair, School of Oriental and African Studies, London (September 2001)
Yémen: l'Arabie heureuse en mouvement
Report of a visit by French Senatorial Friendship Group, March 2001 (in French).
Middle East International, 1 September, 2000
Proposed amendments to constitution
Attack on the USS Cole
October 12, 2000
The Birth of Modern Yemen
An e-book by Brian Whitaker documenting north-south unification in 1990, democratisation, the 1994 war and its aftermath.
Abu Hamza and the Islamic Army of Aden-Abyan
A bomb plot, an imam at a London mosque and tragic kidnappings in Yemen
Rumblings from a distant outbreak of democracy
The Guardian, 2 Jan 1992
National Democratic Institute
Details of the Washington-based organisation's Yemen programme
Emerging Democracies Forum
This conference, held in Sana'a in July 1999, was attended by 16 countries, including Yemen and Morocco from the Arab world: