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Yemen's presidential candidate urges successful polls despite violence in southern regions

02-22-2012 10:16 BJT

SANAA, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Yemen's presidential candidate Abd- Rabbu Mansour Hadi on Tuesday called on Yemenis to cooperate to successfully run the presidential election which is expected to end the country's deadly one-year unrest.

"The presidential election today, Feb. 21, represents a historical turning point of Yemen and reflects the wisdom of the Yemeni people to exit from the political crisis that have gripped our country since early last year," the only consensus candidate was quoted by state news agency Saba as saying.

"I hope that everyone knows the sensitive nature of the country 's current period and to cooperate to overcome the difficulties and make the electoral process a success to achieve peace, harmony and comprehensive reforms," he said.

Ahmed Saleh, commander of the Republican Guards and son of outgoing president Ali Abdullah Saleh, cast his ballot on Tuesday, which marks the end of his father's 33-year rule.

Defected General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, commander of the 1st Armored Division, also cast his ballot, as reported by opposition media.

More than 10 million eligible voters are expected to cast their ballots at about 29,000 polling stations across Yemen from 8:00 ( 0500 GMT) to 18:00 (1500 GMT), with over 100,000 soldiers guarding the process. However, a string of attacks on election committees flared up in the country's restive southern regions.

Saleh, who is in New York for medical treatment, was granted complete immunity from prosecution in accordance to a power transfer deal brokered by the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

More than 20 polling stations in cities under the control of al- Qaida, separatist Southern Movement and Houthi-led Shiite rebels in the south and north are closed by the anti-election groups, according to officials of the Interior Ministry.

Yemeni Interior Minister General Abdul-Qader Qahtan said in a press conference on Monday that he expected limited disruption during Tuesday's election, but the government has taken security measures in case of any emergencies.

In the capital Sanaa, the polling process is organized in calm. Thousands of residents were seen crowding in front of the polling stations, most of them taking their children with them to witness the country's "historic day."

"I voted for Hadi because President Saleh recommended him to lead our homeland in the next stage," Mahar al-Yazidy, a leading member of Saleh's General People's Congress party told Xinhua.

Opposition members have their own views, but they also give support to Hadi. "We voted for Hadi in order to get rid of Saleh .. . for a bright future," said Mohamed Hamoud, a member of the opposition coalition and a leading protester in the one-year-old sit-in camp in Sanaa, also known as Change Square.

"The people today overthrew Saleh," protesters chanted in Change Square while showing their inked thumbs as a sign of ballot- casting.

In Aden, several polling stations were attacked by anti- election activists belonging to the pro-separatism Southern Movement in an attempt to "intimidate voters," security officials and several witnesses said.

Despite the attacks, which have raged since overnight and left at least four people dead and dozens injured, more people still turned out to vote amid tighten security as the Aden provincial electoral committee said it would expand polling time by one hour Tuesday night.

"The attempts of disrupting the election in Aden by the southern separatist group reveal that this group has no popularity here ... because polling stations are still receiving more and more voters despite all attacks," a local security official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

In the northern province of Saada, Houthi-led Shiite rebels prevented many people from accessing the polling stations to cast ballots, said a statement by the Supreme Electoral Committee in Sanaa.

Under the GCC power transfer deal, Yemen's new president will lead a two-year transitional government tasked with amending the constitution and holding parliamentary elections.

In his Sunday speech, Hadi promised to revive the economy, strengthen unity and launch a national dialogue with the northern Shiite rebels and pro-separatism Southern Movement to settle the differences.

He also pledged to cooperate in the war against terrorism and continue to battle al-Qaida branch in his country.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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