Yemen voted Ali Abdullah Saleh out of power on Tuesday after he had held on to the title of president for 33 years, reported The New York Times.
Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is the only candidate on the ballot, but the elections are nonetheless an important transitional moment in a country where demonstrations a year ago worked to unseat a dictator.
Yahya al-Qadhi, a shopkeeper, told The Times, “It’s fine that only Abed Rabbo is on the ballot. If there was more than one candidate, then they would start killing each other and we are sick of the killing.”
Reuters noted that Saleh’s sons and nephews still command key army units and security agencies in government, despite the transition in power to Hadi.
Hadi, a former general who was Saleh’s right-hand man, said, “Elections are the only exit route from the crisis which has buffeted Yemen for the past year,” according to Reuters.
Voice of America said that turnout appeared high in the capital, Sanaa, with long lines outside voting stations, however, secessionists in the south said they would boycott the elections. Around 10 million Yemen citizens were eligible to vote in this election.
Four people were killed in clashes between security forces and separatists, reported AFP, when the separatists seized polling stations to prevent voting. Members of the “Southern Movement” vowed “civil disobedience” to prevent people from casting votes, as they claim this election does nothing to address their demands for autonomy and southern independence.
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On the eve of the election, Saleh released a statement which was read on Yemen’s state TV, “I say farewell to the authority. I remain with you a citizen loyal to his homeland, his people and his nation as you have known me through thick and thin,” as reported by The Times.
The election formally removes Saleh from power as part of a Saudi brokered deal that gives Saleh blanket immunity from prosecution in exchange for stepping down.
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