Male: Lines of voters were seen outside polling stations as the Maldives parliamentary elections commenced here Saturday morning.
There are a total of 302 candidates, including 23 women, vying for 85 constituencies. Of these, capital Male holds the largest number of constituencies at 13, with seven in Addu city and the remaining 65 scattered across various atolls.
There are also five voting stations abroad with two in Sri Lanka and India and one in Malaysia. There are also five voting stations in prisons.
There are 240,652 eligible voters.
Voting commenced at 8 a.m. and will end at 4 p.m., an election official told Xinhua.
"We are hoping for very peaceful voting and a free and fair election," said Mohammad Waheed, an official in one of the voting stations here.
The total number of election monitors is 1,920 and this will be augmented by two groups of international observers from the European Union and the Commonwealth who arrived in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation several days ahead of the polls.
Over 1,382 candidate representatives will also be keeping an eye on the voting process.
This elections will be the first major test for President Abdulla Yameen who was elected November last year. Currently, the parliament is held by the opposition Maldives Democratic Party, and the polls are expected to be a tightly contested race.
The run-up to the elections have been steeped in controversy after the Supreme Court earlier this month handed down suspended prison sentences to the election commissioner and his second in command.
The controversial ruling also removed the two from their posts, leaving a virtually headless commission to oversee the elections.