Maldives votes to elect new President

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Voting was held Saturday in Maldives for the second multi-party Presidential elections with long queues of people outside polling stations in this Indian Ocean archipelago, which has seen a series of unsettling political events in the last 18 months.

Voting began at 7.30 am (0230 GMT) at 470 polling stations set up on 192 inhabited island and 40 resorts which is likely to see over 2.30 lakh voters exercising their franchise in the country famous as a paradise destination.

Election Commission chief Fuwad Taufeeq told PTI that voting started at 7.30 am at all the polling booths and so far there were no reports of any untoward incident.

“Polling is going on smooth. No issues have been reported so far,” Taufeeq said.

President Mohammed Waheed along with his wife reached at Ghiyasuddin International School to cast his vote.

Talking to reporters, Waheed said that elections’ results must be accepted by all parties, but refuted that he anticipated any law and order issue during the polls.

Ghiyasuddin School was a major polling station with at least five ballot boxes kept at different locations. Long queues of enthusiastic voters were also seen outside Maafaanu madarsa, Hiriya School, CHSE School.

Four candidates — incumbent Waheed, ex-president and Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Mohamed Nasheed, brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Progressive Party of Maldives candidate Abdulla Yameen and Jumhooree Party candidate tycoon Gasim Ibrahim — are in fray for the top job.

Over 2,229 local observers, 102 international observers, 1,343 representatives of political parties besides 1,642 local and 225 international journalists are keeping a hawk’s eye on the developments in this young multi-party democracy.

Ibrahim Nasheed, 42, who runs a cafe, said the polling arrangements have been very good.

“I have been voting since I was 18 but this election looks quite fair with good arrangements,” Nasheed said.

Homemaker Abba Adam accompanied her 76-year-old mother Fatma to vote. Speaking in local language Dhivehi, she said her mother has been a regular voter and never misses any opportunity to exercise her franchise.

Niuma, who teaches holy Quran at Arabic schools here, said she had read manifestos of all the candidates for at least four to five times to make an informed choice.

“We take voting very seriously. There are no major issues but we do look for the personalities of candidates, their promises and manifestos. This is our right and should be exercised judiciously,” Niuma said proudly showing the ink on her forefinger.

The voting would continue till 4 pm after which counting will start. The results are expected to be out by 11 pm.

A high-level Indian delegation consisting of former chief election commissioners J.M. Lyngdoh, B.B. Tandon, N. Gopalaswami and former high commissioner of India to Maldives S.M. Gavai will observe polls in Male, Southern region of Addu atoll and northern regions of Haa Dhallu and Haa Alifu in north.

A team of Indian Information Technology experts is also working with the Election Commission here to develop software and process for its electoral process that are complicated.

Election Commission of Maldives said it is trying hard to conduct free and fair polls and has involved NGOs like Transparency Maldives among the observers.

First multi-party free elections were held in Maldives in 2008 after three-decades of Gayoom’s rule in which Nasheed won. He had to resign after remaining in power for four years.

Nasheed’s ouster resulted in the elevation of then vice president Mohammed Waheed as his successor. Nasheed had termed this change of power as coup and has spoken number of times to bring alleged perpetrators to book if he wins.

According to Constitution provisions adapted by the country after first democratic elections in 2008, mid-term polls cannot be conducted. The new President has to be elected before November 11 this year.

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