Yemen has a long history with a number of civilisations forming in and around the fertile lands of the southern Arabian peninsula.
From 1200 BC to 600 AD six successive civilisations occupied the area we know today as Yemen. They include the M’ain, Qataban, Hadhramaut, Awsan, Saba and Himyarite eras.
In 630 AD Islam arrived in Yemen and over the next few hundred years successive waves of Muslim rulers dominated life in the area. In 1597 the Ottomans made an appearance, although their hold was only ever tenuous, but they remained influential. In the 1830s they regained control of a large part of the area and established Sana’a as the capital.
The British, as part of their Indian expeditions and under the guise of the British East India Company captured Aden in 1832. Over the next few years they increased the amount of territory around southern Yemen controlled by the British. Aden became strategically important with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.
In 1904 the British and Ottomans signed a treaty which, in effect, created North and South Yemen (although the borders remained fluid). At that stage Aden became the Aden Protectorate.
After World War I, in 1918, the Ottomans withdrew from the region and the northern Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen was created. By 1934 the kingdom was at war with the House of Saud.
In the south, Aden had become part of British India, but in 1937 it became the Colony of Aden. In 1959 this became the Federation of Arab Emirates of the South and in 1963 this was renamed the Federation of South Arabia.
Meanwhile, in the north, in 1962 the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) was created, but was subject to guerrilla warfare soon after; this spread down to the south as well. The subsequent violence in the south became known as the Aden Emergency and led to the hurried departure of the British in 1967. That same year the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY or South Yemen) became independent.
By 1969 the National Liberation Front, a Marxist group which had fought against the British, gained power and in 1978 they renamed themselves the Yemeni Socialist Party; they were the only approved party. Tensions between the YAR (North) and the PDRY (South) continued over the next few years, although there were continuing talks about unification.
On 22nd May 1990 the north and south finally merged into the Republic of Yemen, with Ali Abdullah Saleh, the leader of the YAR becoming president and Ali Salim al-Baidh, the leader of the PDRY becoming vice-president.
In 1993 Yemen had its first multi-party elections which were won by the General People’s Congress (GPC), a North Yemen party which had been founded by Ali Abdullah Saleh in 1982.
Following a brief but bloody war in 1994, Ali Abdullah Saleh was re-elected by Parliament. Soon after, the constitution was changed to introduce direct elections for the presidential post, with two candidates being nominated by parliament.
In 1997 a second general election was held in which the GPC won again, this time taking an overall majority with 187 of the 301 seats in the House of Representatives.
In 1999 the first direct elections for the presidential post were held, with Ali Abdullah Saleh winning once more, with 96.3% of the vote. His term was to be for five years, but in 2000 a constitutional amendment extended this to seven years. The life of the parliament was extended to six years.
By now the GPC was the dominant force in Yemen and in 2003 they won the election, taking 238 of the 301 seats. Ali Abdullah Saleh also won his next election, taking 77.17% of the vote in 2006, although this time he was challenged by a Joint Meeting Parties candidate, Faisal Bin Shamlan, who took 21.82% of the vote.
Ever since the 1994 war there had been continued battles with various tribal groups in parts of Yemen. By 2009 there were rumours of internal strife within Saleh’s government and, with the 2011 Arab Spring, Yemen exploded into protests against Saleh and the government.
Never one to give up easily, Ali Abdullah Saleh took on the protesters and it was only after a close assassination attempt that he finally signed a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) agreement late in 2011 to stand down as president in favour of Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi.
A presidential election has been called for 21st February with one consensus candidate nominated by the GPC and Joint Meeting Parties, that of Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi.
The President is elected for a seven-year term.
The bicameral parliament consists of a Shura Council with 111 members appointed by the President, and House of Representatives with 301 members elected by popular vote to serve eight year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Yemen at joint 170th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 14 (where 100 is least corrupt).