Yemeni Opposition Threatens Protest
Friday, September 22, 2006; 7:04 PM
SAN`A, Yemen -- Yemeni opposition parties threatened Friday to call a massive street protest to dispute partial election results that show their presidential candidate losing by a wider margin than expected.
The threat came amid more allegations of fraud in Wednesday's elections, which pitted incumbent President Ali Abdullah Saleh against his most serious challenger since he came to power in 1978 _ former oil executive Faisal bin Shamlan.
Late Thursday, elections commission spokesman Abdu al-Janadi said Saleh had so far won 3.4 million votes, compared with just 880,000 for bin Shamlan out of roughly 5 million cast. The partial results were based on votes counted from 17,000 of the 27,000 total ballot boxes.
Election results are expected by Saturday, but it is not clear whether a formal announcement will come in view of the disputes.
"We want to prove that the government has lied and committed fraud," opposition spokesman Ali al-Sarari told The Associated Press. "Our supporters count in the millions and not the thousands."
Muhammad Qahtan, another opposition spokesman, said the group would call for a protest to show the world "how numerous we are." He did not give a date for the demonstration.
"According to our count, we have at least 40 percent of the vote," he told the AP. "The elections committee is seeking to carry out an order from the presidential palace to give the president 80 percent of the vote."
"We will go to the street peacefully without carrying arms. We will only carry our voices," he added. "Our goal is to prevent a monopoly of the presidency by peaceful and legal means."
The ruling party, the General People's Congress, called on the opposition in a statement to "accept the will of the people ... and accept the results of the elections."
"The talk of taking to the street is a reflection ... of the opposition's inability to accept the hard defeat they got from the Yemeni people," the statement said.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi rejected claims of fraud and said the criticism raised concerns that opposition parties "are not really committed to democracy, that their interest is really to rule, and not to promote democracy."
Speaking at U.N. headquarters in New York, al-Qirbi insisted that throughout the campaign, the government has made "a tremendous effort to ensure that there is no foul play, no rigging of the election."