Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

Virunga Park chief shot

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Algerian election: Bouteflika votes in wheelchair

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Algeria's media: a mixture of censorship and free speech

Read more

DEBATE

Algeria: What's the Choice? Incumbent Bouteflika Votes in Wheelchair

Read more

WEB NEWS

Nigerian web users call for end to violence

Read more

FOCUS

Bitcoin in the US: A monetary revolution?

Read more

ENCORE!

Fast cars and slow trains

Read more

WEB NEWS

Chile: online mobilization to help Valparaiso fire victims

Read more

FACE-OFF

François Hollande: France's most unpopular president

Read more

  • Nobel-winning Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies at 87

    Read more

  • Low turnout in Algerian election tipped to return Bouteflika

    Read more

  • With a strong French presence, veterans and fresh faces, Cannes aims to please

    Read more

  • Hundreds still trapped in sunken South Korea ferry

    Read more

  • Russia and West agree on steps to ease Ukraine crisis

    Read more

  • Deadly attack on civilians sheltering in UN base in South Sudan

    Read more

  • Eurostar train delay "chaos"

    Read more

  • Chelsea Clinton announces she's pregnant

    Read more

  • French troops free five aid workers kidnapped in Mali by Islamists

    Read more

  • In pictures: Iranian woman pardons son’s killer at the gallows

    Read more

  • After cup defeat, Spanish pundits read last rites for Barcelona

    Read more

  • India heads to polls in single largest day of voting

    Read more

  • Ukraine talks open in Geneva as Putin talks tough on TV

    Read more

  • Pro-Russian separatists killed in attack on Black Sea base

    Read more

  • Man executed in Texas for 2002 triple murder

    Read more

  • Scandal-hit French doctor Jacques Servier dies at 92

    Read more

  • Belgian head of wildlife reserve shot in DR Congo

    Read more

  • Crunch talks on Ukraine begin in Geneva

    Read more

  • Stagehand of God? Maradona's legendary goal inspires a play

    Read more

  • US rolls out red carpet for French critic of capitalism

    Read more

  • N. Korea not amused by London hair salon's Kim Jong-un ad

    Read more

  • Real Madrid beat old foes Barcelona to lift Copa del Rey

    Read more

  • France's new PM targets welfare in drive to cut spending

    Read more

  • Campaigning against Bouteflika's re-election... in France

    Read more

  • Brazil club Mineiro cancel Anelka signing after no-show

    Read more

Middle east

Yemenis set to vote in poll featuring one candidate

©

Text by Amara MAKHOUL

Latest update : 2012-02-21

With longstanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh (pictured) in the US for medical treatment, Yemenis head to the polls Tuesday to approve a consensus candidate. But can the election bring stability to the fragile Arab nation?

More than a year after the start of popular uprising that led to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s departure, Yemen goes to the polls Tuesday in a presidential election that will feature just one candidate on the ballot paper.

Tuesday’s referendum-like election will be held to approve the sole candidate, Yemen’s current vice president, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, as a consensus president. The February 21 election is part of a Gulf-brokered deal that Saleh signed in November.

Hadi, the consensus candidate, is standing for a two-year term that is expected to usher in constitutional reforms ahead of an open presidential election within 24 months.

Despite the rubberstamp nature of Tuesday’s vote, at least some of Yemen’s registered 10 million voters appeared enthusiastic about the poll with demonstrators taking to the streets in the capital of Sanaa earlier this week holding signs that read, "February 21 is the day Yemen will be reborn" and "It's over, the reign of the assassin," referring to the unpopular Saleh.

Ali Abdullah Saleh talks to FRANCE 24 (22/01/2012)

A wily politician who ruled this impoverished Middle Eastern nation largely by co-opting and placating the country’s powerful tribal chiefs, Saleh formally handed power to Hadi in a Gulf-backed bid to quell violent anti-regime protests that virtually paralysed the fragile state for most of 2011.

Saleh has been in New York since late last month to receive medical treatment for wounds suffered in a June bombing at the presidential palace in Sanaa.

On Wednesday, Saleh ordered that the pictures of him hung across the country be replaced with those of Hadi, the state news agency Saba reported.

Days ahead of the election, there was a sense of pre-election excitement on the streets of Sanaa with enormous campaign billboards lining the city’s main avenue and state TV and radio stations urging citizens to go to the polls.

While admitting the upcoming poll is "troubling" from the perspective of democratic principles, Didier Billion of the Paris-based Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques nevertheless believes "it could be the lesser of the two evils and a solution for all”.

According to Billion, Yemen’s latest political compromise was the result of "a tacit agreement between the government and the opposition to take the country out of the current impasse".

Rebellion in the north, separatists in the south and terrorism in-between

With insecurity mounting in the world’s poorest Arab nation, the international community has pinned its hopes on Hadi, considering him the best person to end Yemen's unrest and lead the fight against al Qaeda’s regional branch, AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula).

But terrorism is not the only threat confronting Yemeni authorities. The country is grappling with a Shiite Houthi rebellion in the north and with separatist elements in the south, including the Southern Movement.

"Yemen is a country that has almost fallen into the sort of chaos that has ensnared Somalia," said Billion. “The transition agreement, unsatisfactory as it may be from a democratic perspective, is necessary to maintain stability." Billion noted that, "the United States and Saudi Arabia have directly or indirectly led to this agreement primarily to avoid the situation from escalating."

With a 1,400 km Saudi-Yemen border and a substantial Yemeni expatriate community working in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is especially keen to contain the instability in neighbouring Yemen. Since the start of the Arab Spring last year, the Saudis have displayed their readiness to suppress uprisings especially if they involve the Shiite community. The images of Saudi tanks rolling into Bahrain last March made its position on this abundantly clear.

Pre-election violence grips the south

But while there has been some enthusiasm over Tuesday’s poll in Washington and Riyadh circles, that enthusiasm is not evenly spread across Yemen.

Northern and southern Yemen united in 1990, and dissatisfaction has been mounting in southern Yemen under Saleh’s reign over northerners domination of the country’s military and political establishment.

Although Hadi is from the south, the Southern Movement has boycotted Tuesday’s poll and violence has erupted in the run-up to the poll in the southeastern state of Hadramawt.

Thirst and poverty: daily life in Yemen

On Friday, dozens of people were hurt in clashes in southeast Yemen between rival demonstrators supporting and opposing Tuesday's presidential election, AFP reported, quoting unnamed witnesses in Hadramawt.

Thousands of people have burned their electoral cards in recent weeks at the urging of the Southern Movement, according to witnesses.

Billion however notes that protests against Tuesday’s poll are not widespread. "The major part of the opposition accepted the agreement, so it's a minority that’s displaying this displeasure," he said. "In essence, young people who were at the forefront of the [anti-Saleh] uprising now feel betrayed."

Under the terms of the November agreement, members of the Yemeni youth movement who have been protesting against Saleh in Sanaa’s main square will be invited to participate in a national dialogue that will follow Tuesday’s presidential election. But activists say that so far no contact has been established with the country’s future president.

Finally, there remains the issue of Saleh’s return from the US. His short-term US visa is valid until the end of March 2012. A US official, speaking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity said Saleh will wait until Wednesday to return.

"It’s quite possible that he will return to Yemen to retake the leadership of his party and rejoin the political game,” speculated Billion.

 

Date created : 2012-02-17

  • YEMEN

    Overnight air raids target al Qaeda militants in Yemen

    Read more

  • USA

    Yemen's president Saleh arrives in US for medical treatment

    Read more

  • Yemen

    Yemen's new government takes power

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)