Yemen election ends Saleh’s 33-year rule

February 21, 2012 - 9:59:32 pm


The Arab world’s first female Nobel peace laureate Tawakkul Karman shows her ink-stained thumb after casting her vote in Sana’a yesterday.

SANA’A: Yemeni voters ended President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year rule in a historic ballot yesterday, pinning hopes on a new leader faced with the massive task of rebuilding an impoverished and war-ravaged country.

Polling stations began closing doors at 6pm after a day of voting marred by deadly clashes in the south that left nine people dead, including a child.

The only name on the ballot was that of Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, who will lead Yemen for a two-year interim period as stipulated by a Gulf-brokered power-transition deal signed by Saleh in November.

“Today is the real fall of Ali Abdullah Saleh,” said 25-year-old college student Abdullah Ali after voting at a crowded Sanaa University polling station near Change Square, the focal point of mass protests last year demanding Saleh’s ouster.

“This is victory day for Yemen,” he said.

The Arab world’s first female Nobel peace laureate, Tawakkul Karman, hailed the poll as a “day of celebration,” though she warned Hadi “to work for young people who took to the streets a year ago” or else they will “force him out just as they did Saleh.”

Hadi cast his ballot amid cheers and applause at a far more secluded polling station near his home in the capital, with close aides saying he was surrounded by heavy security because of death threats. “This is a historic day for Yemen ... we will put the past behind us and turn a new page on which we will write a new future,” said Hadi.

The road ahead remains ripe with risk and potential pitfalls, warned Yemen’s UN envoy. Yesterday’s election must be followed by “a far-reaching national dialogue bringing together all parties, especially those who have so far not taken part in the current political process,” said Jamal Benomar, referring to southern separatists and northern rebels who boycotted the polls.

At least nine people were killed in the south, including a child, three civilians and four members of the police and security forces, while dozens of others were wounded, medics and security officials said.