Maldives votes for new president

Voters in the Maldives are going to the polls to elect a president after two previous attempts failed.

Candidates came to a last-minute agreement earlier this week to agree and sign the voter lists required for the election to take place.

In 2012, ex-President Mohamed Nasheed was forced from office, sparking a political crisis. He is seeking to regain power at these elections.

Tensions are high after one vote was annulled and a re-run halted by police.

“Voting got underway at 475 polling booths across the Maldives and several foreign capitals where Maldivians live,” Elections Commission official Aishath Reema told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

Supporters of Mr Nasheed’s opposition Maldivian Democratic Party allege the government and judiciary are attempting to influence the electoral process, fearing he will return to power.

Court decisionMr Nasheed won the Indian Ocean archipelago’s first-ever democratic vote in 2008, ousting Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ran the country autocratically for three decades.

His main rival at the ballot box is Mr Gayoom’s half-brother, Abdullah Yameen. The other major contender is Gasim Ibrahim, a wealthy resort owner and a former minister under Mr Gayoom.

If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote then a second vote is scheduled to take place on Sunday.

In a vote on 7 September, Mr Nasheed led with 45% of the vote, while Mr Yameen and Mr Gasim trailed with 25% and 24% respectively.

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik got 5% and later bowed out.

That vote was annulled by the Supreme Court after Mr Gasim alleged irregularities, despite observer groups deeming the vote free and fair. The court also introduced new guidelines for elections.

Police halted the planned re-run on 19 October saying the guidelines had not been met, after both Mr Gasim and Mr Yameen failed to approve the registry of voters.

According to the Maldives constitution, a new president has to be in place by 11 November when the current presidential term ends.

Mr Nasheed was forced from office in February 2012 in what he has described as a coup. Mr Waheed, who succeeded him, claims Mr Nasheed resigned of his own accord in the face of opposition demonstrations.

Abdullah Yameen, the half-brother of long-time ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, is regarded as Mr Nasheed’s main rival