The Maldives yesterday voted in a run-off presidential election held under intense international pressure to elect a new leader and end months of political unrest.
Polling booths across the Indian Ocean archipelago opened at 7:30am, with the electorate of 239,000 given eight-and-a-half hours to choose between two candidates.
The head of the country’s election commission said he hoped that the vote count would be completed within hours of the polls closing.
“The commission hopes to count the votes and announce the preliminary results before midnight,” Fuwad Thowfeek told reporters.
“Official results will be announced tomorrow,” he added.
The commission said there were lines outside some of the 475 polling booths scattered across the islands when voting began.
After an annulled result and two canceled polls, foreign diplomats have increasingly viewed delays as politically motivated.
The EU warned of “appropriate measures” if yesterday’s election did not go ahead.
Maldivian opposition leader Mohammed Nasheed, a former pro-democracy campaigner who won the first free polls in 2008, is the frontrunner 21 months after he resigned under pressure from demonstrations and mutinous police officers. In a highly unusual move on the eve of a national election, the man who replaced him as president, Mohammed Waheed, left the country on Thursday to travel to Hong Kong for a medical appointment for his wife.
“He is constantly in touch. There’s no reason for concern,” his spokesman Masood Imad said on Friday, adding that parliament would be responsible for inaugurating a new leader today.
Waheed, whose term expired last weekend under the terms of the constitution, has remained in office, despite demands from Nasheed’s party for him to step down and growing pressure from Western nations and India. He announced his intention to step down after elections yesterday in a speech on Thursday.
Nasheed faces a run-off vote against Abdulla Yameen, the half-brother of former autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the archipelago famed for its coral-fringed islands for 30 years.
After casting his vote, Yameen said he had no complaints about the electoral process.
“I will accept the results no matter what the outcome,” he told reporters.
Nasheed, a former political prisoner, won a first vote on Sept. 7 with 45 percent.
However, the result was scrapped by the Maldivian Supreme Court which upheld 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 Saturday last week, which Nasheed won by a larger margin — nearly 47 percent — but still not enough for an outright victory. A run-off election announced for the day after by the independent Election Commission was again canceled by the Supreme Court, which is dominated by judges named during Gayoom’s three-decade rule.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton issued a warning on Thursday.
“The EU underlines that neither continuing uncertainty nor a drift towards autocratic rule would be acceptable to the EU and that it is therefore ready to consider appropriate measures should the poll on Saturday not bring the electoral process to a successful conclusion,” she said in a statement.
TARNISHED LEGACY: Woodrow Wilson served as the university’s president before becoming the US’ 28th leader, but his racism was ‘significant and consequential’ Princeton University is removing former US president Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges after trustees concluded that the 28th president’s “racist thinking and policies” made him “an inappropriate namesake.” The Ivy League school’s trustees made the decision on Friday, according to a statement on Saturday. It comes at a time of widespread rethinking of the US’ racial legacy. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, energized by a series of high-profile deaths of black Americans, has resulted in the removal of Confederate monuments, flags and symbols of racism across the US. Deleting Wilson’s name at Princeton
‘FULLY ENCLOSED’: Residents of Anxin County would be confined to their homes and would only be allowed out once a day to buy necessities such as food and medicine China yesterday imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people near the capital to contain a fresh COVID-19 cluster as authorities warned the outbreak was still “severe and complicated.” After China largely brought the virus under control, hundreds have been infected in Beijing and cases have emerged in Hebei Province. Health officials said that Anxin County — about 150km from Beijing — would be “fully enclosed and controlled,” the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year. Only one person from each family would be allowed to go out once a
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around