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Counting begins for presidential elections in Maldives

Male, Nov 9, 2013 (PTI):
Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed, who was ousted as president in 2012 (C), casts his vote at a polling station during the presidential elections in Male November 9, 2013. Voters streamed into polling booths in the Maldives to choose a new president on Saturday in an election that tests the democratic credentials of an Indian Ocean island state known more for its luxury resorts than its recent political turmoil. REUTERS

Counting of votes has started after balloting concluded peacefully in the controversy-ridden presidential polls in the Maldives today under the watchful eyes of the Elections Commission (EC) and security agencies.

EC President Fuwad Thowfeek said the turnout was much lower than in the annulled September 7 election.

"Last time, a large number of people queued in the beginning. But we have no way of knowing the numbers on queue this time around. From the broadcasts on TV channels, we know that the number is lower," he said.

Polling officially ended at 3.30 pm local time for the 239,105 eligible voters, but many were still waiting in queues to cast their ballot, local media reported.

There was confusion on whether a run-off will be held tomorrow as the EC said Jumhoory Party (JP) and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) were yet to endorse the voters' lists, a charge later denied by the parties.

If no candidate gets over 50 per cent of votes in today's balloting, a run-off will be required between the candidate who receives the maximum number of votes and the runner-up.

Today's polls is the Maldives' third attempt to elect a president in as many months. The country needs to have a new president in place by November 11 when the incumbents term ends.

The EC had earlier scheduled the run-off for November 16, but brought it forward to tomorrow to avoid a constitutional crisis.

However, EC member Ali Mohamed Manik told news portal Haveeru that JP is yet to sign any lists for the run-off, while PPM has stopped signing them today.

"If there has to be a second round, it is to be held tomorrow. However, we are facing some obstacles," said Thowfeek.

Former President Mohammed Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) issued a statement "congratulating the people of the Maldives for peacefully and patiently voting in the new first round of presidential elections. The Maldivian people have, once again, shown their unrelenting commitment to democracy".†


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