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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. 

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In the south, final voter turnout is expected to be much lower than in the capital due to secessionists’ calls to boycott the election and threats against polling centers. Voting day saw one major attack in Aden, the largest city in the south that left at least four dead and 19 injured. There were also reports of intimidation and other incidents throughout the south.

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Many southerners have long felt excluded from the political process. They were not represented at the GCC agreement.

“Most of us agree that we want to stop the bloodshed, and those who want to start the era of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi want to only with the condition that it’s going to be different, only on the condition that they’re going to have good outreach to the southerners, the youth, and the Houthis,” says Jamila Raja, executive director of Consult Yemen, a political consulting firm in Sanaa. “We’re all skeptical about what’s going to happen. Will Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi prove that he’s not a weak president? The odds are against him.”

What’s next?

When Hadi takes office, many Yemenis will be watching to see how he handles those from Saleh’s inner circle who still hold positions of power. Presently, Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali commands the Republican Guards and his nephew is the chief of the central security forces. If he allows them to retain their command positions, many Yemenis are doubtful that Hadi will manage to make significant policy changes.

“The key to change will be to remove them from the military,” says Abdullah al-Faqih professor of political science, Sanaa University. “If Hadi manages to get rid of them than we can think about a different path for the future.”

With Saleh officially removed from power, the nation will begin working on a two-year transition plan laid out by the GCC agreement. During that time Yemenis will redraft their Constitution and have a referendum to prepare for competitive elections.

Most protesters in Change Square, the heart of the protest movement in Sanaa, say they will continue to occupy the square until the government meets their demands to remove the military from political involvement and to amend the Constitution to better support human rights and basic freedoms.

Sitting in his tent in Change Square, Ali Al-Kamaly watched through the doorway as celebrating voters streamed by. Over the course of the past year, about 40 of his friends were killed, he says, most of them shot, during protests. Like many youths, he has decided not to vote. 

“Saleh was the first obstacle to democracy in Yemen and now the election is taking him off the scene,” he says. 

His brother Hamza adds, “It’s a step toward real democracy.”

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