Hadi wins mandate to start reforms, restructure army
SANAA YEMEN began a new era without Ali Abdullah Saleh on Wednesday after an uncontested election that gave his deputy a mandate to launch reforms in a country facing an economy in meltdown, a tenacious Al Qaeda wing and rebellions in the north and south.
Tuesday’s election, which was praised by Washington as a milestone in the country’s transition to democracy, propelled Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi to the presidency of one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, in line with a deal signed in November to end months of protests against Saleh’s 33-year rule.
After a day of jubilation in the capital Sanaa at the final ousting of a fourth veteran leader by the “Arab Spring” uprisings, Yemenis returned to work as reality began to set in.
“Yesterday my friends were telling me this was the beginning of a new era, an end to corruption. Today it’s like nothing happened, nobody has even mentioned it to me.
No one is excited about hearing the election results because they already know who has won,” Yusra Ahmed said.
Although Hadi’s victory is assured, high turnout would give him the legitimacy he needs to carry out changes outlined in the Gulf-brokered power transfer deal, including the drafting of a new constitution, restructuring the armed forces and preparing for multi-party elections in two years’ time.
The election committee is expected to release initial results later on Wednesday.
An official on Tuesday estimated turnout was as high as 80 percent.
“Right now Hadi is the only hope for this country, no other man in Yemen enjoys such broad political backing from so many competing factions. We have to pin our hopes on him,” said 45-year-old pharmacist Ahmed al Sharafi in Sanaa.
But the new leader’s legitimacy is being questioned by northern Shiite rebels and separatists in the south, where the vote was marred by violence in which at least nine people were killed. Members of Saleh’s inner circle also retain key posts.
Security forces opened fire on stone-throwing anti-election protesters in the southern province of Lahej and gunmen stormed voting centres, stealing ballot boxes and setting them on fire in the street, residents and local officials had said.
Southerners demanding a divorce from the north had called for a boycott of the vote.
“All we can do is wait and see what the next days bring now that the new president has taken up the reins of power,” said Abdullah Mohammed, a resident of the southern port city of Aden, where violence forced polling stations to close early and kept many voters away.
The uprising against Saleh was part of a wave that convulsed North Africa and the Middle East. Saleh became the fourth Arab autocrat toppled in the wave of unrest that began in Tunisia more than a year ago.
“This is another important step forward in their (Yemenis’) democratic transition process and continues the important work of political and constitutional reform,” the US State Department said in a statement following the election.