Polling for second multi-party Presidential elections began in Maldives today with people flocking to polling stations to elect their new leader, eighteen months after first democratically elected President Mohamed Nasheed had to resign under duress.
Voting began at 7:30am (0230 GMT) at 470 polling stations set up on 192 inhabited island and 40 resorts which is likely to see over 2.30 lakh voters exercising their franchise in the country famous as a paradise destination.
Four candidates incumbent Mohamed Waheed, ex-president and Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Nasheed, brother of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Progressive Party of Maldives candidate Abdulla Yameen and Jumhooree Party candidate tycoon Gasim Ibrahim - are in fray for the top job.
Over 2,229 local observers, 102 international observers, 1,343 representatives of political parties besides 1,642 local and 225 international journalists are keeping a hawk's eye on the developments in this young multi-party democracy.
India is working closely with the Election Commission of Maldives to further strengthen its capacity.
A team of Indian Information Technology experts is also working with the Election Commission here to develop software and process for its electoral process which are complicated.
A high-level Indian delegation consisting of former chief election commissioners J M Lyngdoh, B B Tandon, N Gopalaswami and former High Commissioner of India to Maldives S M Gavai will observe polls in Male, Southern region of Addu atoll and Northern regions of Haa Dhallu and Haa Alifu in North.
Election Commission of Maldives said it is trying hard to conduct free and fair polls and has involved NGOs like Transparency Maldives among the observers.
First multi-party free elections were held in Maldives in 2008 after three-decades of Gayoom's rule in which Nasheed won. He had to resign after remaining in power for four years.
Nasheed's ouster resulted in the elevation of then Vice President Mohammed Waheed as his successor. Nasheed had termed this change of power as coup and has spoken number of times to bring alleged perpetrators to book if he wins.
According to Constitution provisions adapted by the country after first democratic elections in 2008, mid-term polls cannot be conducted. The new President has to be elected before November 11 this year.