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Yemen vote ousts Saleh, but will new leader bring change? (+video)

Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the sole candidate, won the historic Yemen vote. Many Yemenis hope his win will pave the way to a more democratic society. 

By Correspondent / February 21, 2012

A Yemeni man casts his vote during the presidential elections at a polling center in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Feb. 21. Yemenis are voting to rubber-stamp their US-backed vice president as the new head of state tasked with steering the country out of a crisis that followed the year-old anti-government uprising. The vote can hardly be called an election since Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is the only candidate.

Hani Mohammed/AP

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Sanaa, Yemen

After a year of unrest, Yemenis took to the voting booth on Tuesday to finalize what demonstrators have long demanded: the removal of Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh from office.

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Yemenis cast their ballots in large numbers Tuesday to mark the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's hardline rule, in a poll marred by clashes in the south and a Shiite rebel boycott in the north.

In an uncontested election, the nation rubber-stamped former Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi as the new leader. 

The single candidate election may not have been a shining example of democracy, but it is a moment of historic change for the beleaguered nation, one that many Yemenis hope will pave the way to a more open and democratic society. 

Now the question is whether Mr. Hadi will be capable of bringing about the change that Yemenis have demanded and some have died for in protests over the past year.

Members of Mr. Saleh’s family still occupy key positions in the military that could allow them to influence the government and inhibit the reform process. The country remains fractured, with a secessionist movement in the south and the ongoing rebellion in the north of Houthis, who are from the Zaydi sect of Shia Islam and claim to be fighting for the rights of the Zaydi Shiite community. Al Qaeda has also managed to gain ground amid the instability over the past year.

Hadi’s ability to address these issues effectively and quickly is likely to determine his own success as well as the fate of his nation.  

Crowds gathered outside a polling center in Sanaa to celebrate as hundreds of Yemenis waited to move inside to vote. Some broke into song, while others danced and cheered.

“I think most of the people came here not because they love Hadi, but because they hate Saleh. We hope to make a change,” says Mohammad Taher, an IT engineer, who echoed a common sentiment among most voters.

The youth vote?

A number of youth activists opted not to participate, but they did not speak out against the elections or try to stop or discourage people from voting.

Although Yemen’s youth played a key role in the protest, their leadership was not represented in the transition agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which laid the groundwork for the election.  

“We as youth had nothing to do with the GCC agreement and politics. What is happening now is a result of the GCC. We are not going to oppose it, but we are not going to participate,” says Osama Shamsan, a student who has been involved in protests for the last year. He also says he is open to Hadi as the new leader, adding, “If he’s committed to serving our country in the best possible way we will support him, but if not, we already know how to send him off.”

Odds against Hadi

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