High turnout in Yemen’s presidential elections

High turnout in Yemen’s presidential elections

Yemeni electoral officials hailed a high turnout in a landmark vote that ended President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule, despite boycott calls in the south where violence marred polling.

Washington praised Yemenis for taking an “important step” towards a democratic future, although separatists in the south and rebels in the far north rejected the single-candidate poll. Turnout in Feb. 21’s vote reached 60 percent nationwide, according to an electoral official, but in the south, where 10 people were killed in clashes between separatist militants and police, turnout was far lower.

Saleh to return from US

“Average nationwide voter participation reached 60 percent,” said the official, Agence France-Presse reported. In the main southern city of Aden, 50 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots, while in other southern provinces, turnout was less than 40 percent, he added.

In the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the vote was “another important step forward in their (Yemen’s) democratic transition process.” Meanwhile, Saleh is to return home from the U.S. to take part in the inauguration of his successor and to lead his party, the party spokesman said yesterday. No exact date has been given. He has been in the U.S. since January for treatment of burn wounds he suffered when his presidential palace was attacked in June.