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Yemen’s Houthi Rebels Vow to Boycott Presidential Elections

Yemen’s Houthi rebels said they’ll boycott presidential elections set for Feb. 21, though they won’t stop people from voting in their stronghold in northern Saada province.

The rebels, who have fought a sporadic war against the government since 2004, announced their intentions in an e-mailed statement today. At the same time, they said they back separatists in the south trying to prevent voting from taking place in the regions where they represent the majority. Attempts by the government to use force to ensure ballots are cast “would represent an unjustified aggression,” the rebels said.

Under the Gulf-brokered agreement on power transfer, the interim leader and vice president Abdurabu Mansur Hadi will run unopposed to replace the outgoing president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh signed the deal in November and passed some power to his vice-president. In return, he received immunity from prosecution, as did members of his inner circle.

Hadi, who has been endorsed by all parties represented in parliament, will run the country during a two-year period leading to parliamentary elections and a new constitution.

A southern Yemeni died today while attempting to plant an explosive device at a voting center in the port city of Aden, Fawaz Sharabi, a resident, said by phone.

Members of the southern separatist movement have painted slogans on walls in Aden against the vote that read “no to the election, yes to secession and liberation,” Sharabi said.

Anti-Saleh protests began with rallies in January 2011 that swelled into mass demonstrations as tribesmen and military members joined the movement. Saleh’s crackdown left almost 900 people dead, according to the Yemen Students’ Union. Saleh has put the death toll on the government side at 1,150.

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