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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 April, 2003, 18:42 GMT 19:42 UK
Polls close in Yemen
Voters in the capital, Sanaa
Previous elections were much more violent
Yemen's third general election since reunification in 1990 has passed off largely free of trouble.

At least one person was wounded in shootings involving supporters of rival candidates - but Sunday's vote appears to have escaped the serious bloodshed which marred previous ballots.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh had called for an incident-free vote as his ruling National Congress Party (NCP) faced strong competition from an opposition dominated by Islamists.

Official results are not expected for three days while ballot-boxes are returned from remote regions of the country, top election official Khaled al-Sharif told Reuters news agency.

President Saleh had urged voters to turn out, telling them that democracy was "the saviour of the rulers and the people".

President Saleh
President Saleh said guns should stay at home
Yemeni TV reported a high turnout in the vote, which was monitored by several hundred foreign observers, including a number from the United States and the European Union.

BBC Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi says outsiders will want to see if the election confirms a trend favouring Islamic political parties in the Arab world.

Yemen is home to many Muslim militants and sympathisers of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Gun culture

Correspondents say the clashes on Sunday mainly involved supporters of the NCP and the Islamic Reform Party (or Al-Islah).

YEMEN ELECTION
Yemeni women voters
Twenty-two parties and several independent candidates contested 121 parliamentary seats

Of 8.9 million registered voters, 40% were women

Turnout estimated at about 70%
One soldier was seriously wounded when the army tried to stop one incident.

But during the municipal elections of 2001, 29 people were killed in a country where many people carry arms.

Experts believe there are some 60 million firearms in the country - three for each Yemeni.

Mr Saleh, who ruled North Yemen for 12 years before taking the helm of the unified state in 1990, had called for a "day without weapons".

Fears of bloodshed had been high after fighting during the campaign left eight people dead in a single clash.

Militant threat

The Secretary General of the opposition Yemeni Socialist Party, Jarallah Umar, was assassinated by an Islamic militant in December.

His party ruled the south before reunification.

Islamic militants have been blamed for other recent attacks:

  • In 2000, suspected al-Qaeda members carried out a suicide attack against the US destroyer USS Cole in the port of Aden, killing 17 sailors

  • Last year, suspected militants shot dead three American missionaries at a hospital in the south




SEE ALSO:
Yemeni trial over US murders
20 Apr 03  |  Middle East
Yemen seizes al-Qaeda suspect
05 Apr 03  |  Middle East
Westerners killed in Yemen
18 Mar 03  |  Middle East
Yemen moves against 'militants'
02 Jan 03  |  Middle East
US demands better Yemeni security
31 Dec 02  |  Middle East
US missionaries murdered in Yemen
30 Dec 02  |  Middle East


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