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Yemen elections: Only one choice, but is it still progress?

Yemen heads to the polls Tuesday to choose a replacement to President Ali Abdullah Saleh. President Obama has endorsed the one man on the ballot, Mr. Saleh's vice president.


Yemeni women hold up posters of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the country's vice president and the only candidate in Tuesday's polls.

Hani Mohammed/AP

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Tomorrow Yemenis will go to the polls to officially bring to a close more than three decades of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule.

The moment may be one of unprecedented change for Yemen, but it leaves something to be desired as a beacon of democracy. In this election, voters will enter the polling both to find a ballot with only one candidate – Mr. Saleh’s Vice President, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi – accompanied by a graphic of the map of Yemen and the national flag.

Among many international observers and Yemenis, though, the uncontested election is not seen as problematic, but a necessary step to peacefully remove Saleh and begin the transition process. Yemeni participation in the election and the government’s ability to provide security tomorrow will also likely serve as a bellwether of the challenges that lay ahead for the nation, one central to the ongoing fight against Al Qaeda.

“This election on the 21st of February isn’t the end all, be all. It’s one part of a much longer-term process and I think that’s the context people need to look at it with,” says Grant Kippen, chief of party for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. “This is a great opportunity when there’s not the competitiveness that’s usually associated with elections to actually sit down and work through the processes, the procedures, and then going forward when the referendum happens in the following elections to really have solid, well-known procedures in place.”


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