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.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
SURGE CONTINUES: India recorded its steepest spike of more than 57,000 new virus cases in 24 hours, as Vietnam went from no virus deaths to reporting three South Korean prosecutors yesterday arrested the elderly leader of a secretive religious sect as part of an investigation into allegations that the church hampered the government’s COVID-19 response after thousands of worshipers were infected in February and March. Prosecutors in the central city of Suwon have been questioning 88-year-old Lee Man-hee, chairman of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, over charges that the church hid some members and underreported gatherings to avoid broader quarantines. The Suwon District Court granted prosecutors’ request to arrest Lee over concerns that he could temper with evidence. Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying they are