Former President Mohamed Nasheed today led the first round of the Maldives' presidential election but might miss the crucial 50 per cent mark by a whisker, making a run-off between the top two candidates imminent.
According to trends from the Election Commission, 45-year-old Nasheed, who had to resign under duress in February last year, led in the initial trends but slowly lost the edge and stabilised at 42.84 per cent of votes.
Under the country's election laws, if none of the candidates get more than 50 per cent of the vote, a run-off will take place between the top two candidates.
The Election Commission said 187 of the 470 ballot boxes had been counted so far. Over 70 per cent of 2.30 lakh voters exercised their franchise in the first round of the election here today.
A run-off could see Nasheed contesting against Gasim Ibrahim or Abdullah Yameen, who have bagged 24.36 per cent and 27.58 per cent votes respectively.
India has been engaging with both the candidates - Nasheed and Yameen - who are likely to contest for the second round, much before the elections.
Both the leaders have recently visited New Delhi and met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assuring full support, sources said here. Former President Abdul Gayoom and brother of Yameen had also visited New Delhi in June.
India, which shares close ties with the archipelago nation, is of the view that multi-party democracy is in a very nascent stage and should be given time to deepen its roots here, they said.
President Mohamed Waheed was struggling with little over five per cent of the votes.
The second round of elections is scheduled for September 28 and the new President has to take charge by November 11.
Four candidates - President Waheed, former President and Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Nasheed, Abdulla Yameen, the brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and candidate of Progressive Party of Maldives, and Jumhooree Party candidate and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim - are in the fray for the top job.
Polling was peaceful barring one minor incident at Dhiggaru island on Meemu atoll, where voting began two hours behind schedule because of a tussle between local observers and voters.
According to reports, observers wanted to vote first but people who had lined up at the booths since early morning objected. Police arrested some persons who were trying to use fake ID cards to vote.
All the candidates expressed satisfaction with the election process.
The wife of President Waheed, who accompanied him to vote, was asked by election staff to join a queue following which she returned without casting her ballot.
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