Male: Over 50 per cent of voters on Saturday participated in the second round of the Maldives' controversy-ridden presidential election, in which ousted leader Mohamed Nasheed faced Abdulla Yameen in a run-off amid intense global pressure to end months of political turmoil.
Counting of votes began soon after balloting ended at 4 pm local time. Elections Commission chief Fuwad Thowfeek said official results of the presidential run-off would be announced on Sunday. Preliminary results, however, will be available before midnight, he said.
Parliament Speaker Abdulla Shahid informed MPs through a letter that a new president and vice president will be sworn in tomorrow at a special session of the House. There was a large turnout for the balloting, with more than half of the country's 239,000 voters exercising their franchise.
Long queues were seen outside most of Male's polling stations and many voters did not leave even after casting their ballot, media reports said. Facing heightened global pressure, President Mohammed Waheed, who took office when Nasheed resigned under duress in February 2012, stepped down and left the country before the run-off.
On Wednesday, the Maldives was expelled from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, which is investigating the political chaos after repeated court interventions to prevent the presidential elections.
After two cancelled polls, foreign diplomats increasingly viewed delays as politically motivated and the European Union warned of "appropriate measures" if today's election failed. Police said voting was smooth barring a few minor incidents.
Over 20 people were arrested from polling stations for revealing their ballot slips after voting, a criminal offence under the law. Fuwad also confirmed that the poll panel had received fewer complaints today, compared to previous elections.
Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz pledged his force would ensure a smooth transition, no matter who won the election. "I congratulate the candidate who wins the elections in advance. We will fully cooperate with the candidate who wins today," Riyaz said.
The current polls mark the Maldives' third attempt to elect a new President since September. The Maldives has been in a state of political flux since Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader, was forced to resign in February 2012.
The first election on September 7 was annulled by the Supreme Court, citing the rigging of voters' lists, while the Elections Commission's attempt to hold polls on October 19 was thwarted by police after a Supreme Court ruling.
In a crucial re-vote on November 9, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chief Nasheed bagged 46.4 per cent of the votes, a marginal increase from his previous tally of 45.45 per cent votes in the September 7 polls.
Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leader Yameen made a significant gain of nearly five per cent over the 25.35 per cent of votes he secured in the annulled polls and managed 30.3 per cent of the votes.
A run-off scheduled for November 10 by the Elections Commission was postponed till Saturday by the Supreme Court. After casting his vote today, Yameen, the half-brother of former autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, said he would accept the result of the run-off and expects a victory with 55 per cent to 60 per cent of the vote.
"I came to vote absolutely confident. Because we have a very grand coalition. Except the MDP, all the other political parties and leaders are together with us," he said. "But we hope there won't be huge irregularities. We see things proceeding smoothly. So God willing, we will accept the vote results," Yameen was quoted as saying by Haveeru news portal.
At a rally last night, Nasheed claimed his party was set to establish a "people's government". He said, "The Maldivian citizen's hopes will become reality. We will establish a citizens' government, a government by you."...