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Long lines, fainting and shoving: Maldives voting proves slow-going

Election law states that those in line by the time polls close are entitled to cast their vote.



People reported waiting up to six hours to cast their vote in the Maldives presidential election Sunday, as long lines persisted at polling stations more than halfway through the day.

There are about 262,000 eligible voters. Elections Commission member Ahmed Akram told the Maldives Independent that turnout had reached 38 percent by noon.

Polls close in less than an hour, but queues stretched outside most schools where polling stations were set up in the capital.

In Kuala Lumpur people fainted while waiting, leaving others in the queue to manage the line and arrange for drinking water. Queues were said to extend from the 10th floor to the ground floor. There are almost 1,900 people registered to vote in Kuala Lumpur, but only one ballot box.

In Colombo, where there are two ballot boxes for around 2,800 voters, the former EC head Fuwad Thowfeek told the Maldives Independent there was no organisation.

“It was overcrowded, uncomfortable. I saw people pushing. I am not very good at pushing. So after waiting for an hour, we decided to return later,” he said.

There was one official checking ID in Colombo. By noon, just a few hundred were said to have voted. There were arguments and people were leaving without casting their vote.

There are between six and eight officials at most other polling stations however.

One official lets people in and prioritises the elderly, election monitors and pregnant women.

A second enters voters’ ID card details into a tablet to see if he or she is registered at that polling station. That official gives out a queue number. It is the first time tablets are being used in a Maldives election.

A third official checks the ID card against a list and looks at peoples’ faces to confirm it is them on the ID card. A fourth marks fingers with voting ink. A fifth gives out the voting card.

Once the ballot paper is marked a sixth official holds open the ballot box.

Election law states that those waiting in line by the time polls close are entitled to cast their vote and that ballot boxes should be sealed once everyone in the queue has deposited their voting slip.

In 2013 there were 239,621 registered voters and the number of votes cast was 218,621. The turnout was 91.41 percent.

Transparency Maldives, which has almost 400 election observers, said polling had started smoothly.

The majority of ballot centres were open by 8:30am and candidates were well represented. Voting materials were present and ballot boxes were verified as empty at the start.