Nasheed takes early lead in Maldives' presidential poll
Former President Mohamed Nasheed today gained an initial lead in the Maldives' second multiparty presidential election by garnering 42 per cent of the vote, according to initial results reported by local media.
Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected President who resigned in February last year, was followed by Abdulla Yamin who got 27 per cent of votes.
However, there was no official announcement from the Election Commission on voting trends.
Counting began at 4.30 pm at some polling booths even as voting was going on at other places.
A total of 64 per cent of the electorate cast their votes in the polling, which was described by Election Commission President Fuwad Taufeeq as smooth.
If none of the candidates get more than 50 per cent of the vote, another run-off will take place between the top two candidates.
According to initial trends shown on news channels President Mohamed Waheed was trailing with the least number of votes as he secured the backing of only 8 per cent of voters.
Waheed's wife did not cast her vote after she was asked to join a queue at the Ghiyasuddin International School, a major polling station.
Election Commission chief Taufeeq told PTI that voting started at 7.30 am at all the booths. "No issues have been reported so far," he said.
People gathered in large numbers outside polling stations even before voting began. Long queues of enthusiastic voters were seen outside Maafaanu madarsa, Hiriya School, CHSE school and Ghiyasuddin International School.
The poll panel set up 470 ballot boxes across 192 inhabited islands and 40 resorts in the Indian Ocean archipelago to enable over 2.30 lakh voters to exercise their franchise.
Four candidates - President Mohamed Waheed, former President and Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Mohamed Nasheed, Abdulla Yameen, the brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and a candidate of the Progressive Party of Maldives, and Jumhooree Party candidate and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim - are in the fray for the top job.
An 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 which 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 Waheed as his successor. Nasheed had termed this change of power as a coup and has spoken number of times to bring alleged perpetrators to book if he wins.
Barring minor incidents no major disturbance was reported during polling, Taufeeq told reporters.
Police arrested four people for using forged ID cards, according to media reports.
Nasheed stood in line for nearly half an hour at a polling station in an educational institution to cast his vote. His humble gesture was appreciated by voters, who clicked photographs and greeted him.
Diana, 75, who came to vote with her son Khaleel, a diplomat, greeted Nasheed. "We have grown up together. Nasheed's family and mine were neighbours. My mom has seen us grow. We went to school together," Khaleel said.
Nasheed seemed to command a following among young voters who photographed him with their smartphones.
When voting was about to end former president Gayoom reached the same voting station. His brother Abdulla Yameen voted at National University here while Jumhooree Party candidate Gasim Ibrahim cast his ballot at a madrassa.
Ibrahim Nasheed, 42, who runs his own cafe, said the arrangements for the polls were very good.
"I have been voting since I was 18 but these elections look quite fair with good arrangements," he said.
Homemaker Abba Adam has accompanied her 76-year old mother Fatma to vote. Speaking in Dhivehi language, she said her mother has been a regular voter and never misses any opportunity to exercise her franchise.
Niuma, who teaches Arabic at schools, said she had read manifestos of all the candidates 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," she said proudly showing the ink on her forefinger