The Maldives on Saturday began voting in the second round of the controversy-ridden presidential election as ousted leader Mohamed Nasheed faces a run-off against his closest rival,with the poll being held under global pressure to elect a new leader and end months of political turmoil.
Early voters queued up outside polling stations across the island-nation as it staged the second round of the much delayed election in a bid to choose a new president amidst a constitutional crisis.
Facing heightened international pressure,President Mohamed Waheed had stepped down on the eve of the polls and left the country yesterday.
Waheed,who took office when the first democratically elected President Nasheed resigned under duress in February 2012,had been under pressure from India and western powers to step down after his tenure ended on November 10.
After an annulled result and two cancelled polls,foreign diplomats increasingly view delays as politically motivated and the European Union has warned of “appropriate measures” if today’s election fails.
Voting in the runoff presidential polls began at 7.30 am across the Maldives and abroad and polling booths close eight and a half hours later.
Opposition leader Nasheed who won the first free polls in 2008,is the frontrunner 21 months after he resigned under pressure from demonstrations and mutinous police officers.
Nasheed faces a run-off vote against Abdulla Yamin,the half-brother of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom,who ruled the country for three decades until 2008.
Nasheed won the first round on September 7 with 45 per cent of votes,but the result was scrapped by the Supreme Court on a complaint about voter list irregularities.
After another attempt to hold the poll was blocked,a re-run of the first round took place on November 9 which Nasheed won by a larger margin – nearly 47 per cent but still not enough for an outright victory.
A run-off election announced for the day after by the independent Election Commission was again cancelled by the Supreme Court.
On Wednesday,the Maldives was expelled from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group,which is investigating the political chaos after repeated court interventions to prevent the country’s presidential elections.