Former President Mohamed Nasheed Saturday led the first round of the Maldives presidential election but might miss the crucial 50 per cent mark by a whisker,making a run-off between the top two candidates imminent.
According to trends from the Election Commission,45-year-old Nasheed,who had to resign under duress in February last year,led in the initial trends but slowly lost the edge and stabilised at 42.84 per cent of votes.
Under the countrys election laws,if none of the candidates get more than 50 per cent of the vote,a run-off will take place between the top two candidates.
The Election Commission said 187 of the 470 ballot boxes had been counted so far. Over 70 per cent of 2.30 lakh voters exercised their franchise in the first round of the election here Saturday.
A run-off could see Nasheed contesting against Gasim Ibrahim or Abdullah Yameen,who have bagged 24.36 per cent and 27.58 per cent votes respectively.
President Mohamed Waheed was struggling with little over five per cent of the votes.
The second round of elections is scheduled for September 28 and the new President has to take charge by November 11.
Four candidates President Waheed,former President and Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Nasheed,Abdulla Yameen,the brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and candidate of Progressive Party of Maldives,and Jumhooree Party candidate and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim are in the fray for the top job.
Polling was peaceful barring one minor incident at Dhiggaru island on Meemu atoll,where voting began two hours behind schedule because of a tussle between local observers and voters. According to reports,observers wanted to vote first but people who had lined up at the booths since early morning objected.
Police arrested some persons who were trying to use fake ID cards to vote. All the candidates expressed satisfaction with the election process.
The wife of President Waheed,who accompanied him to vote,was asked by election staff to join a queue following which she returned without casting her ballot.
Over 2,229 local observers,102 international observers,1,343 representatives of political parties,1,642 local and 225 international journalists are keeping a close watch on developments in this young multi-party democracy.
An Indian delegation consisting of former Chief Election Commissioners J M Lyngdoh,B B Tandon and N Gopalaswami and former High Commissioner S M Gavai is observing the polls.