Former President Mohammed Nasheed emerged as a clear leader on Sunday in the first round of Maldives presidential election, receiving 45 per cent votes, but fell short of an outright majority, resulting in a run-off between the top two candidates scheduled for later in September.
The Election Commission announced results early today morning after night-long counting, declaring Nasheed a clear winner in the first round of polls, with 95,224 votes.
Nasheed was followed by brother of former President Abdul Gayoom, Abdullah Yameen, who received 25.35 per cent votes (53,099), Gasim Ibrahim with 24.07 per cent (50,422) and present incumbent Waheed Hassan with 5.13 per cent (10,750). Over 88 per cent votes were cast during the elections.
"These are preliminary results. We will be getting ballot papers from various islands in two days and if required, corrections would be made by September 14, after which the final results will be announced. But these corrections are not likely to have major impact on the results," Election Commission President Fuwad Taufeek said.
Under the country's election laws, if none of the candidates get more than 50 per cent of the vote, a run-off will take place between the top two candidates.
If final results do not bring much change, Nasheed will be facing a September 28 run-off against Abdullah Yameen.
Reacting to reports of alleged irregularities at some counting stations, the Election Commissioner said they have received complaints but have not taken any decision on recount on any ballot.
India has been engaging with both the candidates, Nasheed and Yameen, who are likely to contest for the second round, much before the elections.
Both the leaders have recently visited New Delhi and met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, sources said. Former President Abdul Gayoom had also visited New Delhi in June.
India, which shares close ties with the archipelago nation, is of the view that multi-party democracy is in a very nascent stage and should be given time to deepen its roots there, sources said.
Four candidates -- President Dr Mohamed Waheed, Nasheed, Progressive Party of Maldives candidate Yameen and Jumhooree Party candidate and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim -- are in the fray for the top job.
First multi-party free elections were held in Maldives in 2008 after three decades of Mohammed Abdul Gayoom's rule, in which Nasheed won.
He had to resign after four years when security forces joined protests led by the opposition parties over the arrest of a judge. Nasheed's ouster resulted in the elevation of then Vice President Mohammed Waheed as his successor.
Over 2,229 local observers, 102 international observers, 1,343 representatives of political parties besides 1,642 local and 225 international journalists are keeping a hawk's eye on the developments in this young democracy.
Image: An aerial view of an atoll in Maldives ' Photograph: Reuters