Maldives peaceful ahead of presidential poll

    By IANS,

    Male : A carnival atmosphere prevailed in Male complete with blaring music, truck parades and rallies as campaigning for the presidential elections wound up Friday evening. The island nation is set to elect a new president Saturday.

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    Official campaigning wound up at 6 p.m. but locals wandered the streets well after nightfall. Supporters of different parties were freely mingling with no altercations despite the very close election, Xinhua reported.

    The run up to the elections have been remarkably peaceful, admits Transparency Maldives which will field the largest number of monitors Saturday. The view has also been echoed by Commonwealth and Indian monitors who are part of 77 international observers taking part in the polls.

    With over 400 volunteers, Transparency Maldives is not only observing the 472 ballot boxes scattered around the Indian Ocean archipelago, they will also coordinate with the 77 international observers and will play a crucial role in ensuring that elections are as democratic as possible.

    “We’ve had 26 long-term observers since 15 July in the islands. For the most part the election environment has been peaceful; we have reports of sporadic cases of violence, incidents of vote buying… but it’s different from previous elections,” said Transparency Maldives media coordinator Ahmed Najaaf Saleem.

    “It’s less about cash and more in kind, for example donations to communities, to schools and to youth clubs.”

    He pointed out that one reason of relative peacefulness is because all parties feel that they have a chance to win in either the first or second round so there is less incentive to disrupt the process.

    “Two main concerns, one is the mistrusting and politicisation of the police force and the accountability and integrity of the judiciary. These are the two main elements that can make or break the elections,” Saleem added.

    Key presidential opponent former president Mohammad Nasheed told media Thursday that he too was concerned about the politicisation of the police.

    However, President Mohammed Waheed who ousted Nasheed controversially in February 2012, said Friday evening that he was “happy and very proud” of the violence-free campaign.

    “It’s marvellous that we have been able to come to this point after all the difficulties we have had last year we are now at a point where everyone is freely campaigning. All the candidates are doing very well so I am very happy and very proud that we are at this very exciting moment,” he said.

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also called for credible elections.

    In Saturday’s polling, a candidate needs to obtain 50 percent plus one vote to emerge as the next president or there will be a second round of voting to decide the winner.