Supporters of major parties in the Maldives held election meetings through the day as campaigning drew down,and the archipelago nation prepared for Saturdays run-off between former president Mohamed Nasheed and his closest rival,Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM).
Workers and supporters of Nasheeds Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP),PPM and the Jumhoree Party,whose leader Gasim Ibrahim got the third highest number of votes in the initial phase of polling a week ago,thronged the lanes of the capital Male.
Around 500 voters are expected to cast their votes in Thiruvananthapuram and 200 in New Delhi. Arrangements for voting have been made in seven centres abroad,in India,Sri Lanka,Malaysia,Singapore and London,Elections Commission officials said.
Under mounting pressure from the international community,in particular from the Commonwealth bloc and the US,caretaker President Mohamed Waheed stepped down on Friday. Local reports suggested that Waheed had left the country on a personal trip to Singapore.
Waheed took over from Nasheed the first democratically elected president of the Maldives after the latter resigned under duress in February 2012. As per the Maldivian constitution,Waheeds term as president lapsed on November 11. However,he had announced that he would stay in office until the presidential run-off a move that attracted strong international criticism.
The MDP and the PPM had secured 46.93 per cent and 29.73 per cent of the vote respectively in the first round of voting on November 9. The JP got 23.34 per cent. For the run-off,Ibrahims JP has pledged support to Yameen,who is the half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom,the former president who ruled the Maldives with an iron hand for three decades.
Polling will be held at 475 polling centres in Male and other atolls from 7.30 am to 4 pm local time. According to Elections Commission figures,2,39,165 people are eligible to vote.
These elections are long due,as they were actually supposed to be held a month before November 11. These will be free,fair and transparent elections, Elections Commission Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek said.
The Elections Commission will only be in a position to announce the winner of the presidential run-off on Sunday morning. The London ballot box will be opened at 9 am local time and close at 5.30 pm,which will be around 2 pm and 10.30 pm here. Because of this,the last result obtained will be delayed. We will get to know the preliminary results by around midnight or 12.30 am. However,the final results will be declared around 8 am on November 17,as we want to give ourselves a gap of at least 6 hours to receive any complaints, Thowfeek said.
This is Maldivess third attempt at electing a president since September. An election on September 7 was annulled by the countrys supreme court citing irregularities in the voters lists. An attempt to hold elections on October 19 was scuttled by the police after another supreme court order.