With over half the ballot boxes counted, former president Mohamed Nasheed is in the lead in the much anticipated Maldives presidential elections, 18 months after he was prematurely ousted in what he claims to be a \’coup.\’
The country’s first democratically elected president, who was toppled from office last year, is one of the four candidates seeking the country’s top position.
Former president Mohamed Nasheed says he was forced to resign at gunpoint following a coup in February.
Nasheed, who is contesting again and tipped to be the frontrunner was in the lead with 43.9 percent of the votes counted from 237 ballot boxes out of 470 in total.
His nearest rival was Yamin with 25.8 percent closely followed by Gasim with 24.6 percent.
Current president Waheed, who was expected by many to come in last, is so with just 5.6 percent.
Over 90,000 votes have been counted thus far out of the 239,953 eligible voters where the Maldives elections commission estimated a 80 percent voter turnout.
A domestic commission dismissed Nasheed’s claims, saying the transfer of power was “legal and constitutional.”
Nasheed’s former vice president is now President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, and is also a candidate in the presidential race.
The two other candidates are businessman Gasim Ibrahim and Abdulla Yameen, the brother of long-time Maldivian autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
If none of the candidates wins more than 50 percent of the vote Saturday, a runoff is scheduled for September 28.
The Republic of Maldives is a Muslim-majority nation made up of about 1,200 islands scattered in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Sri Lanka. The country is famous for its luxury beach resorts and hotels.
Former president Nasheed gained international prominence for his efforts to draw attention to the issue of climate change, including once holding a Cabinet meeting underwater.