Male: Early voter turnout in the Maldives’ controversy-ridden presidential polls was much lower than the annulled September 7 election, officials here said today amid fading hopes of conducting a run-off tomorrow.

Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek said, “Last time, a large number of people queued in the beginning. But we have no way of knowing the numbers on queue this time around. From the broadcasts on TV channels, we know that the number is lower.”

Meanwhile, the EC has said that there was little hope of holding a run-off tomorrow as Jumhoory Party (JP) and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) were yet to endorse the voters’ lists.

If no candidate gets over 50 per cent of votes in today’as balloting, a run-off will be required between the candidate who receives maximum number of votes and the runner-up.

Today’s polls is Maldives’ third attempt to elect a president in as many months. The country needs to have a new president in place by November 11 when the current President’s term ends.

The EC had earlier scheduled the run-off for November 16, but brought it forward to tomorrow to avoid a constitutional crisis.

However, EC member Ali Mohamed Manik told news portal Haveeru that JP is yet to sign any lists for the run-off, while PPM has stopped signing them today.

“If there has to be a second round, it is to be held tomorrow. However, we are facing some obstacles,” said Thowfeek.

The two parties had earlier scuttled preparations ahead of the October 19 vote, which was blocked by police at the eleventh hour. Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has endorsed the second round lists.

In today’s voting, 46-year-old Nasheed’s main challenger is Abdulla Yameen of PPM, the half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was President from 1978 to 2008.

The third candidate is business and resort tycoon Qasim Ibrahim of the JP.

The political scene in Maldives has been in a state of flux since the country’s first democratically elected President, Nasheed, resigned under duress in February 2012. He was succeeded by Vice-President Mohammed Waheed.

After casting his vote earlier today, Waheed told Minivan News that he felt he had left a good democratic legacy and hoped the transfer of power would be smooth.

“This vote is very important because the Maldivian people want to elect a new leader and they’ve been waiting for this for some time now. I hope this is all going to go well and soon we will have an elected president,” he said.

PPM candidate Yameen said the MDP is unlikely to achieve a first round victory. “I don’t believe that will happen.

Because there were lots of problems in the first round and it is not a correct vote,” he said.

Polling will end at 3:30 pm local time for the 239,105 eligible voters.

Nasheed won the first round of polls on September 7, which was annulled by the Supreme Court that said the voters’ list contained ineligible names. Nasheed got 45.45 per cent of the votes in that round, forcing a run-off.

The Supreme Court, however, annulled the result and ordered fresh polls. Police then blocked the re-vote on October 19, plunging the country into a fresh crisis.

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