x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

High turnout in Yemeni vote that ends Saleh rule

Yemen announce a 60 per cent turnout in a landmark vote that ended Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule and named a new president, despite boycott calls in the south, where violence marred polling.

SANAA // Yemen announced yesterday a high turnout in a landmark vote that ended Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule and named a new president, despite boycott calls in the south, where violence marred polling.

Turnout in Tuesday's vote for Vice President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, the only candidate on the ballot, reached 60 per cent nationwide, an electoral official said.

The replacement of Mr Saleh marks the first case of a transition through political settlement in the revolts that have rocked the Arab world since January 2011.

But in southern Yemen, 10 people were killed in clashes between separatist militants and police, and turnout was far lower there on Tuesday.

In the main southern city of Aden, 50 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots, while in other southern provinces, turnout was less than 40 per cent, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

There was no polling at all in southern towns controlled by Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Activists from the Southern Movement argued that the election failed to meet their aspirations for autonomy or secession for their formerly independent region and called for a boycott.

Members of the movement's hardline pro-independence wing called for a day of "civil disobedience" and actively tried to prevent the show of support for Mr Hadi, himself a southerner, from taking place.

In Aden, they seized control of half of the polling stations and attacked a number of others, clashing with police and security forces in the process.

At least 10 people were killed in Aden and other southern cities, including a 10-year-old child who died near a polling station attacked by separatists, medics and security officials said.

Dozens of others were wounded.

In the far north, Shiite rebels also boycotted the vote. A turnout of only 50 per cent was recorded in the rebel stronghold of Saada, the electoral official said, adding that voter participation was even lower in other rebel-controlled towns.

In the capital Sanaa, participation averaged 60 per cent, although the highest turnout was recorded in Taiz and Ebb, two cities that hosted some of the largest demonstrations of the 10-month uprising against Saleh's rule.

The two cities also suffered some of the deadliest reprisals from loyalist forces during the revolt that led to the Gulf-sponsored transition agreement that paved the way for Tuesday's election.

The deal, which Mr Saleh signed in November after months of procrastination, gave him a controversial promise of immunity from prosecution and stipulated that Mr Hadi lead Yemen for two years until presidential and parliamentary elections.

Mr Saleh is to return home for Mr Hadi's inauguration, a spokesman for his General People's Congress (GPC) party said.

The outgoing president has been receiving treatment in the US for blast wounds he suffered in a bomb attack on his Sanaa compound last June.

"President Saleh is on his way back but I cannot give an exact date for his arrival in Sanaa," said Abdo Janadi, GPC spokesman who is also deputy information minister.

"There will be a grand celebration to inaugurate Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi and he will be handed over the presidential palace," Mr Janadi added.