February 7, 2012
By MARGARET COKER
Yemeni Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi told his divided nation on Tuesday that his priority as the country's next head of state will be to foster national reconciliation among separatists in the south and insurgents in the north and usher in more democratic political reforms.
Mr. Hadi is set to officially take over as Yemen's new leader after Feb. 21, a date outlined in the internationally negotiated power transfer agreement that ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, created a new coalition government between opposition and former ruling party members and named the vice president as the agreed successor to the longtime leader.
Yemen's new government and the international community want to add a legal veneer to the handover of power with a referendum scheduled for Feb. 21. All Yemenis over the age of 18 will have a chance to select Mr. Hadi for a two-year term, a duration stipulated by the power-transfer agreement. His name will be the only one on the ballot.
Yemeni officials and international diplomats concede that Mr. Hadi's candidacy won't be affected by a low turnout, leaving many in the country questioning why the government is spending the nation's scarce financial resources on organizing and staging the referendum in the security-challenged country.
Outside the capital, Sana', the government has little control in the outlying provinces, where armed separatists and other insurgents, as well as a fearsome branch of the al Qaeda terrorist network, hold sway. Some of the domestic insurgents have called on their supporters to boycott the poll on Feb. 21.
The United Nations Development Program, which is helping Yemen organize the poll, says that ballots will be distributed to all provinces, despite security concerns.