Electoral officials count ballots at a polling station in Sana’a. Average nationwide voter participation reached 60 per cent, according to officials. Image Credit: EPA

Sana'a Yemeni electoral officials Wednesday were counting votes after citizens voted Tuesday in a landmark vote that ended President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 33-year rule, despite boycott calls in the south where violence marred polling.

Washington praised Yemenis for taking an "important step" towards a democratic future, although separatists in the south and rebels in the far north rejected the single-candidate poll.

Turnout in Tuesday's vote reached 60 per cent nationwide, according to an electoral official, but in the south, where ten people were killed in clashes between separatist militants and police, turnout was far lower.

"Average nationwide voter participation reached 60 per cent," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. In the main southern city of Aden, 50 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots, while in other southern provinces, turnout was less than 40 per cent, he added.

There was no polling at all in southern towns controlled by Al Qaida-linked terrorists.

Activists from the Southern Movement argued that the election failed to meet their aspirations for autonomy or independence and called for a boycott.

Members of the movement's hardline pro-independence wing called for a day of "civil disobedience" and actively tried to prevent polling from taking place.

At least ten people were killed in Aden and other southern cities, medics and security officials said.

Dozens of others were wounded.

In the far north, Shiite rebels also boycotted the vote.

In Sana'a, turnout averaged 60 per cent, although the highest turnout was recorded in Taiz and Ebb, two cities that hosted some of the largest anti-Saleh demonstrations of the ten-month uprising that led to the Gulf-sponsored transfer of power deal that paved the way for Tuesday's election.

The transition deal which Saleh signed granted him immunity from prosecution and stipulated veteran Vice-President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi be sole candidate to take over for an interim two-year period to pave the way for a contested presidential election alongside parliamentary elections.

In the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the vote was "another important step forward in their [Yemen's] democratic transition process."


"The election sends a clear message that the people of Yemen are looking forward to a brighter democratic future," she said, pledging Washington would "continue to support Yemen" in its "urgent economic, social and humanitarian challenges."