Male: Former President Mohamed Nasheed on Saturday gained an initial lead in the Maldives` second multiparty presidential election by garnering 42 per cent of the vote, according to initial results reported by local media.
Nasheed, the country`s first democratically elected President who resigned in February last year, was followed by Abdulla Yamin who got 27 per cent of votes.
However, there was no official announcement from the Election Commission on voting trends.
Counting began at 4.30 pm at some polling booths even as voting was going on at other places.
A total of 64 per cent of the electorate cast their votes in the polling, which was described by Election Commission President Fuwad Taufeeq as smooth.
If none of the candidates get more than 50 per cent of the vote, another run-off will take place between the top two candidates.
According to initial trends shown on news channels President Mohamed Waheed was trailing with the least number of votes as he secured the backing of only 8 per cent of voters.
Waheed`s wife did not cast her vote after she was asked to join a queue at the Ghiyasuddin International School, a major polling station.
Election Commission chief Taufeeq told PTI that voting started at 7.30 am at all the booths. "No issues have been reported so far," he said.
People gathered in large numbers outside polling stations even before voting began. Long queues of enthusiastic voters were seen outside Maafaanu madarsa, Hiriya School, CHSE school and Ghiyasuddin International School.
The poll panel set up 470 ballot boxes across 192 inhabited islands and 40 resorts in the Indian Ocean archipelago to enable over 2.30 lakh voters to exercise their franchise.
Four candidates - President Mohamed Waheed, former President and Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Mohamed Nasheed, Abdulla Yameen, the brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and a candidate of the Progressive Party of Maldives, and Jumhooree Party candidate and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim - are in the fray for the top job.
An Indian delegation consisting of former chief election commissioners J M Lyngdoh, B B Tandon, N Gopalaswami and former High Commissioner of India to Maldives S M Gavai will observe polls in Male, Southern region of Addu atoll and Northern regions of Haa Dhallu and Haa Alifu in North.
A team of Indian Information Technology experts is also working with the Election Commission here to develop software and process for its electoral process which are complicated.
Election Commission of Maldives said it is trying hard to conduct free and fair polls and has involved NGOs like Transparency Maldives among the observers.
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 remaining in power for four years.
Nasheed`s ouster resulted in the elevation of then Vice President Waheed as his successor. Nasheed had termed this change of power as a coup and has spoken number of times to bring alleged perpetrators to book if he wins.