Yemenis Vote ‘Yes’ to Extend Mandates of President, MPs

Published February 21st, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

A majority of Yemenis have voted in favor to extend the mandates of the president and MPs in a referendum, the election commission told AFP on Wednesday. 

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

Yemenis also voted Tuesday in the first local elections since the country was unified in 1990, and the spokesman said President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ruling General People's Congress was leading in the count ahead of the Islamic reform party Al-Islah, said the agency. 

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

He estimated turnout at 88 percent, said the agency. 

Report said that ten people were killed and twenty others were injured in clashes around the country Tuesday. 

The incidents occurred in the cities of Ebb, Hodeida, Dhamar and Taez, added the agency. 

Opposition figures claimed earlier that there had been voting irregularities. 

The some 18,000 voting stations in Yemen's 20 provinces had originally been due to close at 6:00 p.m. (1500 GMT), but most constituencies were granted a two-hour extension to allow electors ample time to vote, the electoral committee said. 

No turnout figure was immediately available following the closure of the polls. 

An official from the electoral committee told AFP that voting in 86 voting stations had been postponed to a later date because of "technical problems." 

Queues of men in traditional dress with jambiya daggers stuck in their belts, and women wearing veils, formed outside polling stations in Sanaa as soon as they opened at 8:00 am (0500 GMT).  

Polling in the capital took place amid tight security. 

In the Dlah Hamda suburb of Sanaa, the flow of voters dropped considerably in the afternoon, with most Yemenis preferring to take up the national past-time at that hour, said AFP. 

Some 5.6 million voters are eligible to choose local councilors among some 23,000 candidates, competing for more than 7,000 seats on local councils of provinces and directorates, said the  

The (GPC) chose a horse as an emblem, the Islamic reform party Al-Islah went for a sun, while local candidates' emblems varied from a donkey to a pen, said AFP. 

Saleh's GPC has proposed constitutional amendments, rejected by the opposition, that 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 has accused 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. 

The aim of the vote, the first since the former North and South Yemen were unified in May 1990, is to introduce a measure of decentralization in the country of 17.7 million people, said AFP. 

The district and provincial councils are to work out development plans on a regional level. 

Meanwhile, the BBC said that both the local elections and the constitutional changes have been attacked by critics and human rights groups.  

They say they are just means to consolidate the ruling party's hold on power.  

The 59-year-old president has been in power since 1990, and won the first presidential election by popular vote in September 1999. 

The main opposition groups, particularly the southern Socialist Party of Yemen and the Al-Islah party complained in a letter to the electoral committee of irregularities in several voting stations, including ballot papers missing out certain candidates' names and printing errors with the emblem, said reports -  



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