Saleh’s exit sealed by election

Saleh’s exit sealed by election

Saleh’s exit sealed by election

A defected soldier, supporting anti-regime protesters, stands guard as women line up at a polling station during presidential elections in Sanaa. Long queues formed early in the morning outside polling stations. Reuters photo

Yemen sought to turn a new page in its troubled history yesterday with the sole candidate, the country’s vice president, to succeed ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh amid continuing violence in which four people including a child were killed in clashes in the southern part of the country.

Although Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was standing uncontested as a consensus candidate, the election was billed as an attempt to help Yemen make a fresh start after deposing a president who ruled Yemen with an iron fist for 33 years.

The vote would make Saleh, now in the United States for more treatment of burns suffered in a June assassination attempt, the fourth Arab autocrat in a year after counterparts in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya to be forced out by popular revolts. Nationwide protests erupted against Saleh’s regime in January 2011, triggering months of bloodshed.

Long queues formed early in the morning outside polling stations in the capital Sanaa. “This is a day of celebration for Yemenis because it is the day of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s departure that will put an end to despotism and oppression,” Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman said as she waited to cast her ballot outside a university faculty in Sanaa. Voters dipped their thumbs in ink and stamped their print on a ballot paper bearing a picture of Hadi and a map of Yemen in the colors of the rainbow.

“We urge the new president to work for young people who took to the streets a year ago,” Karman said. “If their goals are not achieved, Yemen’s youths will force him out just as they had overthrown Saleh.”

Continuing violence
Hadi cast his ballot at a polling center near his home in Sanaa. Hadi said the vote was the “only way out of the crisis that has ravaged the country.”

A 10-year-old child was killed when militants from the Southern Movement traded gunfire with police near the election commission headquarters in Aden’s Dar Saad neighborhood, residents and medics said.

Southern Movement gunmen killed a policeman in Mansura, also in Aden, the main city in the south, a security official said, adding that two others were wounded in Dar Saad. In the southeastern city of Mukalla, separatists attacked a polling station killing a soldier, a military official said.

Activists from the Southern Movement, who say the election fails to meet their aspirations for autonomy or southern independence, have boycotted the referendum-like elections in which Hadi was the sole consensus candidate.

A high turnout was crucial to give Hadi the legitimacy he needed to carry out changes outlined in a power transfer deal brokered by Yemen’s Gulf neighbors, including the drafting of a new constitution, restructuring of armed forces in which Saleh’s relatives hold key positions, and multi-party elections.