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Yemenis go to polls as violence flares up in southern regions

(Xinhua)

08:08, February 22, 2012

Employees in a polling station prepare for the election in Sanaa, Feb. 20, 2012, a day before Yemen's one-candidate presidential election on Feb. 21. (Xinhua/Mohammed)

SANAA, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Yemenis headed for polling stations Tuesday morning to vote for a successor to outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh, hoping to pull the impoverished country back from a possible civil war.

More than 10 million eligible voters are expected to cast their ballots at about 29,000 polling stations across Yemen from 8:00 ( 0500 GMT) to 18:00 (1500 GMT), with over 100,000 soldiers guarding the process. However, a string of attacks on election committees flared up in the country's restive southern regions.

Under a Gulf-brokered power transfer deal signed by Saleh and the opposition in November 2011 in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, the outgoing president handed over power to his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the only consensus candidate in Tuesday's poll, in return for immunity from prosecution.

On the eve of the polls, there were explosions at polling stations and fierce clashes between security forces and anti- government militants in the county's south, leaving at least two soldiers dead and more than 10 others injured and raising fears that Tuesday's voting would be marred by violence.

Long lines were seen early Tuesday morning outside polling stations in the capital Sanaa. People were waiting for their turn to vote for Hadi, hoping the 66-year-old man could bring changes to the country.

"We are saying goodbye to Saleh and his 33-year rule... We want him to stay in New York and never come back," Fatima Motahar, a mother of three children, told Xinhua after she cast her vote.

Saleh, who went to the United States last month for medical treatment, said earlier this month that he would return to Yemen for Hadi's inauguration.

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