SANAA – Yemenis went to polling stations on Tuesday, February 21, to elect a new president, sealing the exit of Ali Abdullah Saleh after three decades in power, amid violence in the south.
"We are now declaring the end of the Ali Abdullah Saleh era and will build a new Yemen," Yemeni Nobel Peace winner Tawakul Karman told OnIslam.net as she cast her vote in Sanaa.
Amid tight security, Yemenis formed long queues outside polling stations to elect a new president to replace Saleh.
Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is the sole candidate in the vote.
Hadi, a 65-year-old army officer who has serviced as vice president since 1994, is running for a two-year term as president on pledges of improving security and creating more jobs.
In a quite positive mood, men and women congratulate one another on what they hope will herald the coming of a new democratic era.
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.
The ruling General People’s Congress and the opposition Joint Meeting Party called on supporters to turn out in huge numbers to vote in the polls to help ensure the country’ stability and unity.
“Since soon-to be President Hadi will have for task to restructure the army and amend the Constitution, legitimacy is vital,” said interior minister Abdel Qader Qahtan.
Tuesday’s vote came as part of a Gulf-brokered plan under which Saleh, now in the United States for more treatment of burns suffered in an assassination attempt last June, left power in return for immunity.
Saleh will be the fourth Arab autocrat in a year to be forced from power after revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
But many Yemenis feel that the political class aided by western powers hijacked the youth movement and allowed Saleh to walk on his own terms rather than that of the people.
"The election is a political scenario mapped out in the GCC initiative but in its essence it is irrelevant to the true ideals of democracy," Rana Jarhoum, a young activist, told OnIslam.net.
Analysts believe that the election is a safe way-out for Yemen from the current cycle of violence and instability.
“Although the elections are a one-man show, if Yemenis do not cast their vote in favor of Hadi the entire power-transfer could be void,” political analyst Ahmed Fakhry told OnIslam.net.
“And since there is no provision for that eventuality, Yemen would face not only uncertainty but further bloodshed.
“Warring factions would use the power vacuum to spread more violence and satisfy their political ambitions,” he said.
Former president of south Yemen Ali Nasser Mohamed Husani has said that he was considering returning to Yemen.
Husani, who is now in exile in Syria, said he was supporting the GCC brokered initiative, stressing that it was it was essential for all Yemenis to participate as Hadi needed legitimacy to rule over the Republic.
But the vote was marred by violence southern Yemen, where separatists are seeking to secede from Yemen.
Four soldiers were killed in an attack by gunmen on a polling station in Hadramawt province, officials told BBC Arabic.
Two soldiers were also killed and a number of people injured in Aden, the main city in the south. Half the polling stations there have now been closed.Two soldiers were also killed in an attack in the al-Hawta district.
The separatist Southern Movement has called for a day of "civil disobedience" to mark the vote.Southerners, who accuse the north of usurping their resources and discriminating against them, said they would boycott the election because it confers legitimacy on a political process that excluded them.
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