Former President Mohamed Nasheed was tonight ahead in the first round of the Maldives' presidential election but may fall short of the crucial 50 per cent mark by a whisker, raising the prospect of a run-off between the top two candidates.
The Election Commission announced results from 315 of the total of 470 ballot boxes as per with 45-year-old Nasheed secured 45 per cent of the votes while President Mohamed Waheed got about 8 per cent votes.
"The results from 315 ballot boxes have come... 45 per cent of votes have gone to Mohamed Nasheed, who is the highest scorer, 26 per cent has gone to Progressive Party of Maldives candidate (Abdullah Yamee) and 24 to Jumhooree Party candidate (Gasim Ibrahim)," President of Election Commission Fuwad Taufeek said.
"Waheed has got about 8 per cent," he told a press conference. Taufeek said none of the candidates has got more than 50 per cent of the votes.
Under the country's election laws, if none of the candidates get more than 50 per cent of the vote, a run-off will take place between the top two candidates.
A run-off could see Nasheed contesting against Gasim Ibrahim or Abdullah Yameen. India has been engaging with both the candidates - Nasheed and Yameen - who are likely to contest for the second round, much before the elections.
Both the leaders have recently visited New Delhi and met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assuring full support, sources said here. Former President Abdul Gayoom and brother of Yameen had also visited New Delhi in June.
India, which shares close ties with the archipelago nation, is of the view that multi-party democracy is in a very nascent stage and should be given time to deepen its roots here, they said.
The second round of elections is scheduled for September 28 and the new President has to take charge by November 11.
Four candidates - President Waheed, former President and Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Nasheed, Abdulla Yameen, the brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and candidate of Progressive Party of Maldives, and Jumhooree Party candidate and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim - are in the fray for the top job.
Polling was peaceful barring one minor incident at Dhiggaru island on Meemu atoll, where voting began two hours behind schedule because of a tussle between local observers and voters.