Monday, February 20, 2012

Yemen to elect new president

SANA'A, Feb. 20 (Saba) - Over 10 million Yemeni citizens are to cast their ballots on Tuesday to elect a new president.
Vice President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi is the sole consensus candidate in the early presidential election to be held under the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)-brokered initiative signed by the Yemeni political parties in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, last November and also backed by UN resolution 2014.
The Supreme Commission for Election and Referendum (SCER) said all technical and security arrangements have completed for the presidential election, which is the third in Yemen.
The election's budget amounts to YR 9.9 billion and is managed by 21 supervisory committees, 301 central committees and 28,742 sub-committees, in addition to 900 extra sub-committees allocated for voters, who are not in their electoral constituencies and the displaced people in Sa'ada and Abyan governorates.
Over 100,000 troops will provide security at polling committees across the country.
The number of registered voters is 10,243,364 voters, of whom 4,348,485 are women.

Gulf, western countries urge Yemeni parties to hold violence-free elections

SANAA, Feb 20 (KUNA) -- Ambassadors from the Arab Gulf countries and western nations called Monday on all parties in Yemen to join hands to bring about successful and violence-free early presidential elections.
The Ambassadors of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), and the European Union (EU) voiced full commitment to the success of the peaceful political transition in Yemen in compliance with the GCC initiative, signed by President Ali Abdullah Saleh and opposition last November.
The Ambassadors, in a joint statement, said the February 21 presidential elections were "an important step" and all parties should contribute to their success.
They hoped political parties, military authorities, tribes, NGOs and civil service societies contribute to improving the security conditions, protecting of civilians and infrastructure, respecting of human rights and achieving national conciliation.
Around 10 million voters are set to head to polling stations tomorrow to elect vice-president Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi as the interim president. All parties have agreed to name Hadi as their candidate.

Gunmen attack polling stations in south Yemen

Associated Press | Monday, February 20, 2012
Gunmen attacked two polling stations and killed one soldier in Yemen's restive south Monday, one day before the country is to go to the polls to rubber stamp its vice president as the new head of state.
Also Monday, al-Qaida linked militants killed two soldiers outside of a city controlled by jihadists.
The attacks underline the security vacuum in the Arabian peninsula's poorest country after a one-year popular uprising seeking to oust longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Under a U.S.-backed deal brokered by Yemen's Gulf Arab neighbors, Saleh's deputy, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, is to become president after a vote Tuesday in which he is the only candidate.
Posters and huge banners brandishing Hadi's photo and urging Yemenis to vote have appeared throughout the capital Sanaa as the vote approaches. Thousands of people attended an electoral rally early Monday in support of the vice president.
Hadi, a low-profile figure who has served under Saleh for years, did not attend the event and has rarely addressed the public. Still, many Yemenis who originally opposed the deal that will bring Hadi to power now support the move merely because it will officially end Saleh's 33-year rule.
Security has collapsed across Yemen during the uprising, with security forces regularly using lethal force against protesters and clashing with various armed groups. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have struggled to ensure a smooth transition in hopes that Yemen will continue to cooperate in fighting the country's al-Qaida branch, which has carried out attacks in the U.S.
Two Yemeni soldiers were killed in a gunfight with al-Qaida militants near the city of Zinjibar, security officials said. Militants seized control of the town last year, exploiting the country's unrest.
Other violence appeared motivated by opposition to the vote, the officials said.
In the central town of Daleh, one soldier was killed in a shootout with gunmen associated with a group calling for independence for Yemen's south.
In the port city of Aden, gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a polling station, then fled. No one was hurt, and police are searching for suspects.
And in the southern province of Shabwa, armed men raided a polling station in the town of Ataq, expelling the election workers and occupying the building, officials said.
The attacks appeared unrelated, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity under security protocols.

Yemen elections: Only one choice, but is it still progress?

Yemen heads to the polls Tuesday to choose a replacement to President Ali Abdullah Saleh. President Obama has endorsed the one man on the ballot, Mr. Saleh's vice president.
By Tom A. Peter / February 20, 2012
Sanaa, Yemen
Tomorrow Yemenis will go to the polls to officially bring to a close more than three decades of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule.
The moment may be one of unprecedented change for Yemen, but it leaves something to be desired as a beacon of democracy. In this election, voters will enter the polling both to find a ballot with only one candidate – Mr. Saleh’s Vice President, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi – accompanied by a graphic of the map of Yemen and the national flag.
Among many international observers and Yemenis, though, the uncontested election is not seen as problematic, but a necessary step to peacefully remove Saleh and begin the transition process. Yemeni participation in the election and the government’s ability to provide security tomorrow will also likely serve as a bellwether of the challenges that lay ahead for the nation, one central to the ongoing fight against Al Qaeda.
 “This election on the 21st of February isn’t the end all, be all. It’s one part of a much longer-term process and I think that’s the context people need to look at it with,” says Grant Kippen, chief of party for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. “This is a great opportunity when there’s not the competitiveness that’s usually associated with elections to actually sit down and work through the processes, the procedures, and then going forward when the referendum happens in the following elections to really have solid, well-known procedures in place.”
Saleh agreed to step down after the Gulf Cooperation Council brokered an agreement in November. As part of the deal, Yemenis will redraft their constitution and have a referendum to prepare for competitive elections in two years time.
Is it really an election?
Still, even among those who supported the GCC agreement, there is some frustration that elections are being used to hand power to Mr. Hadi.
Hassan Zaid was among the signatories of the agreement and supports Hadi as the new president of Yemen, but he says using an election to grant him power risks leaving Yemenis disenchanted with the election process.
“If they say it is a kind of rally to support this GCC agreement, a lot of people would support this, but don’t tell people that it’s an election,” says Mr. Hassan, secretary general for the opposition’s Haq Party. “What’s happening now is a violation of our constitutional legitimacy and ridiculing the election process.”
Despite his dissatisfaction, Hassan says he will still vote and show his support for Hadi.
The US has already officially backed Hadi via an official letter from President Barack Obama in which he wrote that he looks forward to cooperating with Hadi. With the Al Qaeda threat still large in Yemen, where the US conducts regular drone operations, relations with the new Yemeni leader will be critical.
“It is a very unique kind election, but it will begin what we hope is a process of substantial change in the society over the next two years that will culminate in February 2014 with what we anticipate will be a full, fair, and free democratic election,” says Gerald Feierstein, US Ambassador to Yemen.
Many young, few jobs
A year after the unrest began in Yemen, the biggest challenges may extend far beyond the transition currently underway.
The same issues that helped sparked unrest – namely unemployment and economic instability – remain a problem and in many cases the political crisis and fighting only exacerbated the issues.
The median age in Yemen is 18 and 43 percent of the population is 14 years old or younger. Among those 24 or younger, joblessness remains a significant problem. Several estimates put unemployment as high as 50 percent among this demographic. 
 “At the end of the day, the national dialogue, constitutional reform – those particular issues essentially mean very little if youth don’t have jobs, education systems are failing, health systems aren’t providing. Those sort of bread-and-butter issues need to be addressed along with the conversations about political processes and political issues,” says Heather Therrien, resident director of the National Democratic Institute in Sanaa.
Additionally, Al Qaeda has managed to gain ground in Yemen over the past year, and tensions remain high between Sanaa and the south where a secessionist movement is strong. Southern separatists have called for civil disobedience to disrupt voting and the threat of violence against polling stations remain high.
Civil war is still a concern among many Yemenis if these long-standing concerns are not addressed in a substantive manner by the new government. However, after the ousting of Saleh, there is some optimism that government will now be forced to take action on issues it previously neglected.
 “If we hadn’t had this kind of challenge, the political establishment would have been resistant to sudden demands of autonomy which would have left these grievances festering for a much longer time. It’s an opportunity for us to build a more equitable and viable political system,” says Abdul-Ghani Al-Iryani, president of the Democratic Awakening Movement, also known by its Arabic acronym TAWQ.

Polling station in Yemen blown up one day before vote

Feb. 20, 2012 
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A Yemeni security official says gunmen have blown up a voting station in the southern city of Aden one day before the country is to go to the polls to rubber stamp the vice president as the new head of state.
The official said the gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the station on Monday, then fled. No one was hurt, and police are searching for suspects, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under security protocol.
The attack underlines the security vacuum in Yemen after a one-year-old popular uprising seeking to oust longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Under a U.S.-backed deal brokered by Yemen's Arab Gulf neighbors, Saleh's deputy, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, is to become president after elections Tuesday in which he is the only candidate.