India lauds free and fair polls in Maldives


New Delhi : Lauding the process of democratic transition underway in the Maldives, India Thursday praised the “peaceful and fair”presidential election in the picturesque Indian Ocean nation comprising 1,190 islands.

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“We are heartened by the peaceful and fair manner in which the first round of multi-party presidential elections in Maldives took place recently,”External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement here.

He was all praise for the Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who unveiled his roadmap for democratic reforms in 2004, for his “sagacity and foresight” for the first multi-party elections held under a new constitution in the island nation in the last three decades.

“The elections saw a high turnout of voters (85.5 percent). It is for the people of Maldives to take necessary decisions about their future in the next round of elections which will be held soon,” he said.

Underlining “close and friendly relations” between the two countries,Mukherjee offered India’s willingness “to assist the friendly people of the Maldives in their democratic transition and in their march towards prosperity”.

India has stood by the Maldives in good and bad times. In 1988, the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi sent troops to thwart militants who tried to oust Gayoom in a failed coup.

Gayoom, Asia’s longest-serving leader, will face Mohamed Nasheed, a former
political prisoner and pro-democracy activist, in a run-off vote Oct 29 that will decide landmark multi-party elections.