Former Indian Chief Election Commissioners J.M. Lyngdoh, B.B. Tandon and N. Gopalaswami will be the election observers

Conducting an election in a country with 2,39,593 voters cannot be very difficult. But the task is daunting when the country is Maldives, an archipelago of 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean spread over 950-km north to south, of which 200 are inhabited.

Add to that 41 resorts (where booths have to established for citizens), and six overseas cities where ballot boxes have to be maintained, and the logistics involved seems mind boggling.

But the head of the Elections Commission (EC) says that his organisation is up to the task. The EC has been hand held by both the Indian and the United States in capacity building, and has checks and balances in place. The EC plans to have at least seven EC officials in each ballot box (booth) in all the islands. In the capital city of Male, home to about a third of the voters, the EC will maintain 103 ballot boxes and over 700 officials will man the booths in all. The officials will constitute the frontline staff to take action in any eventuality.

Ballot boxes and ballot papers are being airlifted to far-way locations and are being despatched by boats to the nearby localities. Under-trial convicts, who are registered voters, in the five jails in Maldives – Male, Atoll Vehi Detention, Asseyri, Dhoonidhoo and Maafushi – will also get a chance to exercise their franchise the same day in their jails. As many as 1569 prisoners will vote in the polls.

The EC goes to great lengths to ensure that all eligible voters are able to cast their votes. It will maintain a booth in the resort island of Falhumaafushi for just one voter. In fact, there are at least 22 booths where the voters do not exceed 100.

The ballot boxes in international destinations are in Colombo (two booths, one for 2096 voters, and another for 1078), Kuala Lumpur (1085 voters), Thiruvananthapuram (857 voters), New Delhi (125 voters), Singapore (144 voters) and London (223 voters). “In all international destinations, we will open the polling booths at 7-30 am Maldives time so that voting begins everywhere at the same time,” said the EC chairperson Fuward Thowfeek. Maldivian time is half-an-hour behind India’s.

The results of the first round should be available by around 9 pm on September 7, Mr.Thowfeek said. There was a possibility that the results from London may not come in by then, but the trends will be clear, he added.

Indian observers meet officials

Former Chief Election Commissioners J.M. Lyngdoh, who arrived here on Wednesday, joined fellow former CECs B.B. Tandon and N. Gopalaswami and former Indian High Commissioner to Maldives, S.M. Gavai in meeting a wide cross-section of officials and civil society leaders in the capital.

The four-member high-level team of election observers are here on an invitation from the Maldives Elections Commission for the first round of Presidential elections on September 7. “The general impression is that the Election Commission here is well prepared. People that we met told us that the issues that had cropped up in the earlier polls in 2008 have been sorted out,” Mr. Gopalaswami told The Hindu, when asked about his opinion on the preparations. “We met many different people, different shades of opinion. By and large, everyone expects peaceful polls,” he added.