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Voters in Maldives Elect Leader after Protests and Violence

Voters in Maldives Elect Leader after Protests and Violence

Male – Voters in the Maldives thronged polling stations on Saturday to chose a new leader 20 months after their first democratically elected president was ousted, causing months of sporadic violence and uncertainty. Mohamed Nasheed, forced from power in February 2012 in what his supporters say was a coup, hopes to return to office and end a period of unrest that has tarnished the Indian Ocean archipelago’s image as a tropical holiday paradise.

“Voting today is significant because we are going to establish a legitimate government,” he said after waiting 15 minutes to cast his ballot in the city centre, near police headquarters. Jostled by reporters, Nasheed was whisked to the front of the queue by bodyguards and then quickly out of the polling station. He is running against three rivals, including Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, who took over as president after his ouster.

But Nasheed’s main rival is expected to be Abdulla Yameen, a half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the man who ruled for 30 years and was considered a dictator by opponents and rights groups. “I hope to get through in the first round itself,” Yameen told reporters. Also on the ballot is Gasim Ibrahim, a resort tycoon, media business owner and a finance minister under Gayoom.

Voters waiting in queues that stretched around street corners in the capital Male, were eager to cast their ballots after the prolonged period of turmoil. “I’ve been waiting 19 months for this day. So I got here as early as I could. It’s my way of standing up against the coup,” said Ismail Shiyaz, 39, a backer of Nasheed. Others, like Rooya Hussain, were less certain. “I don’t think any of these candidates are suitable,” she said. “However, I cast a valid vote for one of them. Let’s see if this brings any change for the better.” (Reuters)

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