Maldives goes to the polls

2008-10-08 10:18
Male - Islanders in the cramped city of Male and scores of far-flung atolls began voting on Wednesday in the first democratic presidential election in their tiny nation's history.

For many, the vote is seen as a referendum on President Mamoun Abdul Gayoom, Asia longest-serving ruler, who won six previous elections as the only candidate on the ballot.

Gayoom now faces five opponents, including a charismatic leader of the pro-democracy movement, Mohamed Nasheed, and a reform minded former attorney general, Hassan Saeed.

If no one wins an outright majority, the top two vote-getters will face off in a second election. Turnout is expected to be high among the nation's 208 000 registered voters, who have enthusiastically danced at campaign rallies and plastered campaign posters on the walls of their homes.

Whoever wins will inherit a stunningly beautiful country of 1 190 coral islands dotting the ocean southwest of India.

But the newly elected president will also confront a growing heroin problem, increasing fundamentalism in the Sunni Muslim nation and the looming threat that rising sea levels caused by global warming will wash the country away.

Many of the candidates are promising better health care for the country, increased development and stronger transport links between the islands.

The president's supporters say that his 30-year-rule turned a poor nation of fishermen into a tourist paradise and the economic success story of south Asia. His detractors accuse him of ruling as a dictator, violently suppressing dissent and amassing wealth for his friends and family.

Soon after polls opened more than hundred people were standing in a line in the pouring rains outside a school in Male used as a voting centre.

Some of the voters said this was the country's first meaningful election.

"This is the thing we have never seen and experienced," said Ibrahim Rasheed, 39, a businessman in Male.

Many said the time has come for a new leader.

"We need a change now. Thirty years is a very long time, the whole nation wants a change," said Abdullah Samad, 49 a businessman.

Opposition officials complained of widespread problems with voter registration and said in some atolls observers were not being allowed into the polling centres.

Mariya Didi, chairperson of the Maldivian Democratic Party, was herself unable to vote when she discovered that she and her 10 brothers and sisters were not in the voting list despite having registered.

Gayoom, who took power in 1978, began a government reform program in 2004 in the face of large-scale street protests and growing international pressure. A new constitution stripping much of the president's power, establishing independent courts and creating term limits was ratified in August.

Gayoom has appealed for a new five-year term, saying he needed more time to finish shepherding the transformation to democracy. His opponents say it is time for a change.

- AP

Read News24’s Comments Policy


Inside News24

When is a mountain more than just a mountain? 2014-12-18 07:26

When it’s an adventure! A group of Old Mutual employees found out how much is enough courage, endurance and camaraderie to take on Africa's highest peak.


Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!


I love summer.24

Summer Survey!
Great ideas for the best summer sandwiches!
Christmas lingerie to make this festive season the best one ever!
13 things you might not know about Disneyland

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go! - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


At last you are able to see the light. You are able to break through obstacles in an innovative and original way. Visualisation more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.