Yemen Votes for Saleh’s Replacement

Posted February 21st, 2012 at 12:20 am (UTC-5)
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Yemeni voters are going to the polls to elect a successor to President Ali Abdullah Saleh after a year-long uprising that forced him from power.

Tuesday's vote is the culmination of a deal — backed by the United States and brokered by Yemen's Gulf neighbors — to replace Mr. Saleh with Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Hadi was selected as the sole candidate by a consensus of President Saleh's ruling party and the opposition coalition.

Mr. Saleh, stepping down after 33 years in office, has urged voters to turn out in large numbers. He said Monday the poll is a moment to move the country toward peace and stability.

Polls opened at 8 a.m. and results may take several days to calculate.

More than 10 million Yemeni citizens are eligible to vote. But with the outcome predetermined, there is concern that low voter turnout could undermine Hadi's mandate.

And prospects for a stable, democratic transition in Yemen remain uncertain given Mr. Saleh's vow to return to lead his party anew, a split in the country's powerful military, al-Qaida militants, a secessionist movement in the south and a Shi'ite Muslim revolt in the north.

On Monday, violence wracked the country when attackers blew up a polling station in the southern port city of Aden and gunfire nearby killed a soldier. Factions in the south have vowed to disrupt the election.

The violence underlines the security vacuum in the Arab world's poorest country after a year of political unrest.

President Saleh is the fourth Arab autocrat forced to leave office by the wave of Arab Spring uprisings during the past year. He is now in the United States for more treatment of burns suffered in a June attack on his presidential compound.