Male, Nov 9 — Hundreds of people lined up outside polling stations in over 200 islands to elect a new president for the Maldives here Saturday.
As many as 470 ballot boxes have been arranged for voters who were seen exercising their franchise enthusiastically at the start of polling in this Indian Ocean group of islands, reported Xinhua.
“It is a relief to finally vote after so many delays. We hope that this time it will result in a president accepted by all,” voter Hilmy Waheed told Xinhua after casting his vote.
Earlier, all three candidates in the presidential race voted Saturday morning.
This is the third attempt being made to elect a president after two previous attempts were derailed by political infighting.
The first round of polling held Sep 7 was annulled by the Supreme Court after allegations of mass scale vote rigging.
A second attempt to hold elections Oct 19 was called off hours before voting was to begin after police refused to distribute ballot papers and boxes to 200 odd islands.
Maldives election officials are scrambling to be ready for a possible two rounds of polling this weekend ahead of a crucial constitutional deadline Nov 11, which states that if the country does not elect a president by Nov 11 the parliament speaker will take over and oversee the transition of power.
Unless a candidate wins an outright majority of 50 percent or more, the two top candidates will go into a second round run off scheduled for Sunday. The winner will be sworn into office Monday.
Ali Mohamed Manik, member of the Maldives Elections Commission, told reporters that the ballot papers to be used in the second round of the presidential election, scheduled for Sunday, Nov 11, have been sent for printing.
Speaking at a press conference, Manik said the ballot papers used in the second round will contain the names of all three candidates despite the fact that only the top two candidates will be eligible for the second round run off.
Meanwhile, Haveeru Online reported that voter turnout so far has been lower than expected.