Forty-eight people have expressed an interest in challenging Ali Abdullah Saleh, but only four could muster sufficient support.

The rest, including all three women, failed to secure the  required support in parliament and the consultative council to be  registered.

The electoral law requires candidates for the presidency to  secure the backing of at least 5per cent of members of the two  bodies.

The four challengers include the main opposition candidate, former oil minister Faisal bin Shamlan as well as two independents and another man from a group not represented in parliament.

Saleh has been in power since 1978 and ruled North Yemen before its merger with the south in 1990. He is the only leader the united country has ever known.

He had said he would not stand for re-election but changed his mind in June following what he described as "an appeal  from the popular masses", which was a huge loyalist demonstration of his ruling General People's Congress in the capital Sanaa.