Male: A high-profile team of Indian observers has expressed satisfaction with the "orderly" conduct of the first round of presidential polls in Maldives and hoped the run-off later this month would be as transparent and fair.
The second round is slated to take place on September 28 between Former President Mohammmed Nasheed and Progressive Party of Maldives candidate Abdulla Yameen.
The run-off between top two candidates became necessary as none of the candidates managed to secure the crucial 50 per cent votes in the first round held on Saturday.
While Maldivian Democratic Party leader Nasheed managed little over 45 per cent votes, Progressive Party of Maldives candidate and ex-president Abdul Gayoom`s brother Yameen secured just 25 per cent of over two lakh votes polled.
"The polling was orderly and unblemished by any notable incident. It was also an enjoyable experience for the voter. The voters` lists were accurate and prominently displayed. The ballot boxes were opened and closed as per the scheduled time," J M Lyngdoh, the former Indian Chief Election Commissioner, who was part of the seven-member observer team, said here.
"The discipline, patience and dignity of the voter and the sheer competence, industry and cheerfulness of the election staff were quite admirable. The police were ubiquitous but discreetly non-intrusive," Lyngdoh said at a briefing organised by the Elections Commission of Maldives.
He said the success in the first round is an achievement which any of the mature democracies would have been proud of.
This was a transparent and fair election and there is no reason why the run-off should be any less than the first round, Lyngdoh said.
The delegation of Indian Election Observers was in Maldives at the invitation of the Elections Commission of Maldives to observe presidential elections on September 7.
There were six teams of Indian observers, consisting of Former Chief Election Commissioners Lyngdoh, B B Tandon, N Gopalaswami and former High Commissioner of India to Maldives S M Gavai, which observed polls in Male, Southern region of Addu atoll, Northern regions of Haa Dhallu and Haa Alifu in North.
"Overall, the Indian delegation covered 158 polling booths across the country which is 33.6 per cent of total polling booths," Lyngdoh said.
The former CEC said every candidate had the time and security to campaign.
"The counting did try everyone`s patience, each bundle of
ballot papers having to be counted and recounted by Elections Commission personnel. The mutual trust between the candidates` representatives on the one hand and between them and the counting personnel made adequate amends," Lyngdoh said.
First multi-party free elections were held in Maldives in 2008 after three-decades of Gayoom`s rule in which Nasheed won. He had to resign after four years after security forces joined protests led by the opposition parties over the arrest of a judge.
Nasheed`s ouster resulted in the elevation of then Vice-President Mohammed Waheed as his successor. Nasheed had termed this change of power as a coup and has spoken a number of times to bring the alleged perpetrators to book in case he wins.
According to Constitution provisions adapted by the country after first democratic elections in 2008, mid-term polls cannot be conducted. The new President has to be elected before November 11 this year.
With such national and international attention, Election Commission of Maldives is trying hard to conduct free and fair polls and has involved NGOs like Transparency Maldives which are also part of the observers.
"It is a difficult task to conduct elections in a country which spread in a such a large geographical area but we have ensured that polls take place in most transparent and fair manner," President of Election Commission of Maldives Fuwad Taufeeq has said.