Five More Killed in Yemen as Poll Count Continues

Published February 22nd, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Two newly-elected opposition representatives and three policemen were reported killed in clashes in Yemen Thursday as counting continued in municipal polls and a referendum amid opposition cries of foul. 

The Islamic reform party Al-Islah said in a statement that Faisal al-Dimma was killed at Al-Qafr, in Ibb province 193 kilometers (120 miles) south of Sanaa, after being declared elected. 

The statement alleged that he was dragged by members of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ruling General People's Congress (GPC) to a party headquarters in the village and murdered. 

Al-Islah slammed the "extremism" of the GPC and called for the killers to be brought to justice. 

A senior official of the Nasserite Unionist Party meanwhile told AFP that Mohamed Moqbal Jarun was murdered overnight in the province of Al-Bayda, 170 kilometers southeast of Sanaa, as he was leading by 700 votes with the last ballot box being counted. 

He was killed by shots fired from within the counting center, the official alleged, also calling on police to arrest those responsible, whom he did not identify. 

In another incident Thursday police said three policemen were shot dead Thursday by militants of Al-Islah west of Sanaa, police said. 

The three were attacked in a vote counting center at Al-Hamiya, near the capital, a police official told AFP. Five other people, including policemen, were wounded. 

Yemenis went to the polls Tuesday to vote in a referendum to extend the mandates of the president and MPs and in the country's first local elections since unification in 1990. 

Ten people were killed in some 30 clashes on polling day. 

As counting continued Thursday the GPC demanded an inquiry Thursday into "132 incidents" it said were provoked by the opposition to disrupt voting in the country's first local polls since 1990. 

The trouble was caused by "extremist elements" Al-Islah, the Yemen Socialist Party and the Nasserites, "attacking numerous electoral committees, using weapons, physical violence and threats," the GPC charged. 

Opposition parties themselves were quick to allege fraud and intimidation after the voting, calling for new local elections and another referendum to be held with independent monitors. 

The election commission said preliminary results indicated that a majority of Yemenis had voted to extend the mandates of the president and MPs in a referendum and for the ruling party in the local elections. 

"According to preliminary indications from the count, the 'yes' vote will win" in the referendum, election commission spokesman Mansur Ahmad Seif told AFP Wednesday. 

"In the local elections, Congress are in front followed by Al-Islah and then the Socialists," he said. 

Seif estimated turnout at 85 percent of the 5.6-million-strong electorate. 

But the joint secretary general of the Yemen Socialist Party, Jarallah Omar, charged, "These elections have not been fair because the opposition parties face not only the GPC but all state mechanisms that have been mobilized to block the opposition." 

"Many people have been authorized to vote without holding an elector card, the names of several opposition candidates have been scrubbed from ballot papers, and the emblems of others have been changed," he complained. 

"As for the referendum, if there is a 'yes', that will go to show that there has been widespread vote-rigging," said Omar, whose southern-based party had boycotted all previous elections in Yemen since 1993. 

For his part, Abdul Malek al-Mikhlafi of the Nasserites denounced "the violence that broke out in most rural constituencies to expel opposition delegates from polling stations or stop their supporters from voting." 

Saleh's proposed constitutional amendments, rejected by the opposition, lengthen the presidential term from five to seven years, for a maximum of two mandates, and that of members of the 301-member parliament to six years, from the current four. 

The opposition accuses Saleh, who has been in power since 1978, of trying to impose one-party rule. 

The proposed amendments also grant legislative powers to a consultative council formed in 1997 and whose 60 members are appointed by the president. 

In tandem with the referendum, more than 23,000 candidates stood in local elections for 7,032 seats. 

The elections -- the first since the former North and South Yemen were unified in May 1990 -- are to introduce a measure of decentralization in the country of 17.7 million people. 

The district and provincial councils are to work out development plans on a regional level -- SANAA (AFP) 

 

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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