By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
SANAA, Yemen – On Tuesday, 21 February, Yemen elected the U.S.-backed Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi as President of Yemen. However, Mr. Hadi was the only candidate on the ballot. Mr. Hadi’s election ends the 33-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and a year of turmoil after Yemenis ousted Mr. Saleh.
Dayfallah al-Shami from the Houthis’ leadership council said, “These are not real elections, it is just formalizing the American-backed [Gulf Cooperation Council] initiative which aimed to control the Yemeni revolution…It is just a reproduction of the same regime.”
Although Mr. Saleh agreed to resign from office with full immunity from prosecution once the country elected a new president, his strong tribal and family connections continue to influence the nation. His sons and nephews, for example, command the country’s security agencies and military units.
Before the election, Mr. Saleh addressed Yemenis to encourage them to vote. In his address, Mr. Saleh said, “I will remain with you as a citizen loyal to his country, people and nation…and will continue to serve the country and its just issues.”
After Mr. Hadi voted for himself, he said, “This is a qualitative leap for modern Yemen…There will be big political, economic and social change.” He added, “Elections are the only exit route for the crisis which has buffeted Yemen for the past year.”
During Tuesday’s elections, Yemen’s Election Commission stopped voting in nine of 301 districts due to chaos. Nine people died from election violence where southern separatists called for an election boycott in southern Yemen. A bomb threat also moved Mr. Hadi’s polling station at the last minute. Furthermore, four soldiers and four civilians, including a child, died in clashes between security forces and election opponents throughout the country.
In the Aden province, a series of explosives blasted near the polling place. Abdel-Aziz Yehiya, the province’s election commission head, also reported that unidentified gunmen captured 44 of the 800 ballot boxes and set them on fire. Yemeni officials suspect al Qaida members took the ballot boxes.
After Yemenis voted amid the tight security, young men rode in taxis holding their inked thumbs that signified they voted out the taxi’s windows. Other demonstrators displayed their red-dyed thumbs to protest the elections and remember the uprising’s causalities.
Sanaa voter Bushra al-Baadany reported, “I am voting for Hadi as a new leader instead of Saleh because I want change…If Hadi is like Saleh, we are ready to have another revolution.”
For further information, please see:
Reuters – Saleh’s Deputy Takes Power In Yemen Vote As Sole Candidate – 22 Feb 2012
RT – Yemen Elects New Leader In Walkover Election – 22 Feb 2012
BBC – Yemen Violence Mars Poll To Replace Ali Abdullah Saleh – 21 Feb 2012
San Jose Mercury News – Yemeni Vote Elevates Vice President, Ends Saleh’s 33-Year Rule – 21 Feb 2012