Maldives set for election run off

Maldives set for election run off

The Maldives' first democratic presidential election goes to a second round run-off shortly.

Asia's longest-serving leader, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, is facing former political prisoner and pro-democracy leader Mohamed Nasheed.

President Gayoom won the first round earlier this month, but failed to secure the 50% needed for outright victory over Mr Nasheed.

Both candidates say they are confident of victory.

The campaigning was noisy with rallies late into Sunday night and parades of trucks and taxis in the narrow streets of the cramped island capital of Male.

Opposition candidates who were knocked out are now supporting Mr Nasheed, known as Anni.

President Gayoom has ruled the Maldives since 1978 and claims credit for making the country South Asia's most prosperous, largely thanks to tourists who come for the white sandy beaches and turquoise lagoons.

He began a reform programme following international criticism of his suppression of street protests in 2004.

Reasons to win

This is the first time President Gayoom has allowed competition in an election.

Mohamed Nasheed has said he is a dictator and a has-been sultan, and that the Maldives needs change.

When asked how it felt, to be standing, potentially, on the brink of power after years spent in the pro-democracy struggle, Mr Nasheed said: "I've been tortured twice, I've spent numerous years behind bars and numerous days in solitary confinement. It's heart lifting to see that if you work on something consistently without losing focus that you will be able to achieve your goals."

But President Gayoom is confident of victory too.

"I need five more years for one thing to complete my reform agenda. I want it to be my legacy to the country that the country enjoys a full democratic system," he said while campaigning in the far north of the archipelago.

Both men going into this election have deep personal reasons for wanting to win.

The Presidency of the Maldives would be the culmination of Mohamed Nasheed's long campaign for democracy. For President Gayoom victory would be a vindication of his decades in power.


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