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Voting under way in Maldives parliamentary polls

Polls opened at 8am across the country.



After a hard-fought campaign, voting is under way in the third multi-party parliamentary elections of the Maldives since a democratic constitution was adopted in 2008.

On several islands, voters queued up hours before polls opened at 8am. There are 501 ballot boxes in polling stations across the Maldives as well as Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia and England.

Some 264,442 people are eligible to vote.

Some 386 candidates are competing for 87 seats in the 19th People’s Majlis, the country’s unicameral legislature. Under a first-past-the-post system, the candidate who wins a plurality or the largest share of votes will be elected to a five-year term to represent 5,000 constituents.

According to Transparency Maldives, which is observing the elections, the opening of the polls was “smooth and the administrative preparation went well.” Despite some delays, nearly all polling stations were opened before 9am and officials were in place.

“The materials required for voting were present and the ballot papers were counted at 99 percent of the polling stations. 99 percent of ballot boxes were verified as empty at the opening of the polls,” the NGO said.

“Observers concluded that the polling stations were set up to ensure a secret vote in 99 percent of polling stations. Transparency Maldives observers will be closely monitoring the one percent of the polling station where the secrecy of the ballot may be compromised due to the layout of the polling station.”

Police presence was visible outside 81 percent of polling stations at the time of opening, it added.

The environment throughout the country remains peaceful but two election-related complaints have been reported so far, according to updates from the police ‘Blue Tide’ nationwide security operation.

Elections Commission chief Ahmed Shareef told the press that opening was delayed for a ballot box kept at the Thilafushi industrial island for inmates at the Malé jail. But the EC worked with the prisons authority to resolve the problem, he said.

On Thursday, the EC assured voters they would not have to wait in queue for hours as most people did during September’s presidential election.

Media reports suggest the turnout is relatively low compared to the 89 percent for the presidential election.

About 71,842 votes have been cast as of 12pm, representing about 27 percent of the electorate. Long queues observed outside most polling stations at opening time have since dwindled.

In Malé, where polling stations have been set up in 17 government buildings and schools, the temperature is 31 degrees celsius.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih voted around 10:15am at the Jamaluddin School in the capital. Speaking to reporters after casting his ballot, he urged citizens to go out and vote.

Voters can check their registered polling station by sending a text message with the national identity card number to 1414. (VR<space>Axxxxxx).

“President Mohamed Nasheed has voted in the parliamentary election.”