SANAA // There is only one candidate in Yemen's upcoming presidential election, but more than 200 clerics yesterday made it a 'religious duty' to vote for the sole candidate.
The poll, set for February 21, will replace the outgoing president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The clerics said in a statement distributed during a meeting yesterday in Sanaa that the Yemeni people should vote for Abdurabu Mansur Hadi "in order to maintain the unity of the country, its security and stability."
Sheikh Mohammed Al Hazmi, one of the clerics who signed the statement, said the call is a "religious fatwa that means voting is a religious duty in order to get the country off its crisis".
In a newspaper editorial yesterday, Mr Saleh, currently in the US receiving treatment for injuries received during a blast in his palace compound last year, also urged people to vote for Mr Hadi.
In the editorial, published by his party newspaper Al Mithaq, Mr Saleh said he made concessions to keep the peace and stability of the country, and said that an election is the best way for a peaceful transfer of power.
Mr Saleh signed a deal in November brokered by his Gulf neighbours and backed by the US to pass power to his vice-president. In return, he received immunity from prosecution, as did members of his inner circle.
The cleric's call comes amid political tension, mainly in the south where the separatists have called for the disrupting the vote. Shiite Houthi rebels are also calling for a boycott of the election which they claim hijacks the youth-led revolt.
Mr Hadi, who has been endorsed by all parties represented in parliament, will run the country during a two-year period leading to parliamentary elections and a new constitution.
Last week, a report by the organisation Human Rights Watch estimated the security crackdown on protesters in Yemen last year killed at least 270 people.