(Creative Commons/Sallam)

Yemen has experienced ongoing violence – including attacks against unarmed demonstrators – since anti-government protests began over a year ago. In the face of the protests and violence against civilians, members of the domestic opposition and international community have called for the country’s President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to step down. An international agreement was brokered that required Saleh to give up power, but he managed to delay action for months.

Despite Saleh’s attempts to preserve his grip on the presidency and his ongoing efforts to maintain political influence, the people of Yemen will vote today for a new leader. According to Foreign Policy Magazine:

With only one candidate in the race, Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi, the election has been described as more similar to a referendum: Citizens are merely voting to confirm the transfer of power to Hadi according to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) power-transition deal outlining the end of the 33-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The plan called for Hadi to take the position for an interim two-year period, at which time there would be presidential and parliamentary elections.

The fact that Hadi will be running uncontested has left many Yemenis angry and frustrated. Separatist extremists in the southern part of the state have been taking part in demonstrations against the elections, which are often violent, and are calling for a boycott of the vote. Today, a group of air force officers protested against Saleh’s half brother, who rules the air force, calling for him to set down as well. These are just a few of the challenges that must be addressed to ensure short-term and long-term peace.

The election – and its aftermath – will be pivotal for Yemen and could easily contribute to further conflict. The central government has been severely weakened and its inability to control large areas of the country is presenting major security problems. All of these factors are worrisome. Because of the questionable security and heightened tensions among the population, a major outbreak of violence could be on the horizon.

United to End Genocide is monitoring the unfolding situation in Yemen. Stay tuned to our blog for more updates.

Whitney Hamilton contributed to this blog.

Camp for internally displaced persons, March 2009 (UN Photo)

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