Male, Sep 7 — Thousands of people flocked to 470 polling stations across 200 islands in the Maldives on Saturday to elect their next president, nearly 18 months after the Indian Ocean archipelago’s first elected president Mohamed Nasheed was ousted.
Over 240,000 Maldivians are eligible to vote in the election in which four candidates, including incumbent President Mohamed Waheed and the ousted Nasheed, are in the fray, Xinhua reported.
The other two are tycoon Gasim Ibrahim and MP Abdulla Yameen, the half-brother of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
All four candidates were in an upbeat mood Saturday over the large turnout where young and old alike stood for hours in snaking lines all across the capital Male.
Waheed decided to be the early bird and cast his vote just 15 minutes after the polling stations opened. He said he was “very confident” of winning the elections.
Gasim Ibrahim took a leisurely walk to the polling booth to cast his vote around the same time as Waheed.
Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Yameen headed to the poll booth next to the National University of Male.
Yameen said he believed the election was a turning point in the history of the Maldives.
However, he admitted that doubts regarding its credibility still remained and that political parties could decide to contest the result to be announced early Sunday.
“This (the election) is absolutely crucial. This is the watershed election. Things have gone so wrong for the last four to five years and it is absolutely imperative that we change for the better this time,” Yameen told Xinhua.
Asked whether he was confident of the elections being free and fair, he said there were still loopholes that the regulators had failed to close ahead of time.
“It all depends on how problems are going to be resolved here. If it (result) needs to be contested, if there are substantive issues, I suppose every party would contest.
“There has been a supreme court order but the elections commission has very clearly said in public that they are not going to adhere to that, any of the fallout from that (elections),” Yameen said.
Yameen had the public endorsement of former president Gayoom and many of his family members active in the current government.
“The elections commission may be credible but I don’t understand why they were so reluctant when we offered to invite from all the parties an independent group to verify and ascertain whether their system is foolproof so this makes us quite jittery,” he added.
Overall, Yameen was upbeat on the turnout for the polls where long lines were seen at most polling stations.
“Voting is more than expected I think… there is a very, very eager crowd. There have been reports of very peaceful polls in the islands. I’m saying that if there is a serious dispute over how things go today, then each party may want to go to the courts,” he said.