Maldives gears up for presidential polls

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In Saturday’s election, Nasheed’s main challenger is Abdulla Yameen

Supporters of the Maldivian Democratic Party attend a rally in Male on Friday.— Photo: AFP
Supporters of the Maldivian Democratic Party attend a rally in Male on Friday.— Photo: AFP

Maldives on Friday affirmed that the controversy-ridden presidential polls set for Saturday will go ahead in order to avert a constitutional crisis.

“Maldives is all geared for elections on Saturday,” said Masood Imad, spokesman for Maldivian President Mohammed Waheed.

The polls will be 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 current presidential term ends.

“The arrangements are in place for the election on Saturday and if no one crosses the 50 per cent mark, there will be a runoff on Sunday,” the spokeswoman for the Elections Commission said.

She said the authorities were ready to conduct voting across the archipelago as well as a few foreign capitals where Maldivians live, including New Delhi. The electorate is just under 2,40,000.

The Elections Commission had earlier scheduled a runoff on November 16, but brought it forward to November 10 to avoid a constitutional crisis.

“Both the Elections Commission and agents of the three candidates have agreed to reschedule the runoff date. The President hopes for smooth and fair elections,” Mr. Imad told PTI.

Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party won the first round of election on September 7, which was annulled by the Supreme Court, which said the voters’ list contained ineligible names. Mr. Nasheed got 45.45 per cent of the votes in that round, forcing a run-off.

The Supreme Court, however, ordered fresh polls. Police blocked the re-vote on October 19 at the eleventh hour, plunging the country into a fresh crisis.

Mr. Nasheed’s main challenger is Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives, the half brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was the President of Maldives from 1978 to 2008.

The third candidate is business and resort tycoon Qasim Ibrahim of the Jumhooree Party.

“We will defeat those who brought about a coup through the vote. God willing, we will win this election in one round. We will take the Maldives to safe shores,” said front-runner Nasheed at the last rally before polls.

“Saturday is an opportunity to use that power to save this state, this Maldives. Vote for me, god willing, we will make Maldives upright again. We will give you the dignified life you want,” he was quoted by news portal Minivan as saying.

The Maldives is rich in natural resources and Maldivians deserve a lot more than they currently have, Mr. Nasheed said.

Incumbent President Waheed withdrew from the race after coming last in September’s balloting.

He issued a statement earlier in the week saying it was “a very crucial period” for the country, which would face “many challenges” if a new President is not chosen by Monday.

The political scene in Maldives has been in a state of flux since the country’s first democratically elected President, Mr. Nasheed, resigned under duress in February 2012. He was succeeded by Vice-President Waheed.

Meanwhile, Elections Commission’s chief Fuwad Thowfeek said Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim had assured that the police would not obstruct Saturday’s balloting.

Elections Commission member Ali Mohamed Manik said the ballot papers to be used in the second round of the presidential election scheduled for Sunday had been sent for printing.

Mr. Manik said the papers would contain the names of all three candidates, but the name of the candidate who comes third would be struck off once the results of the first round were out, the news portal Sun reported.




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