Historic Maldives poll drags into second day
The Maldives' first multiparty presidential election, seen as a referendum on President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's 30-year rule of the tropical archipelago, dragged into a second day Thursday amid voting hitches.
Early indications, with only a handful of votes counted, gave Gayoom an initial lead, reported Reuters.
Asia's longest-serving leader is seeking a seventh term running the island nation of 300,000 mainly Sunni Muslims, which in the past he has been accused of ruling like a personal sultanate -- a form of government abolished there in 1968.
The poll in the sleepy Maldives, best known as a tropical luxury hideaway for Hollywood stars, is the culmination of years of agitation for democratic reforms which Gayoom, 71, finally signed into law in August.
Polling was originally scheduled to end at 8 p.m. (1500 GMT) Wednesday, but the electoral commission said anyone in line at that time -- there were several hundred at many polling stations in the crowded capital of Male -- would be allowed to vote.
Many Maldivians and diplomats had expected bribery and vote-rigging, and problems with missing voter registrations arose a few hours into the day. The electoral board held an emergency meeting and then said anyone with a national ID card could vote.
"We will not believe the result of this election because there is double-voting," said Umar Nasheer, speaking on behalf of three opposition parties who protested the decision.
Main opposition challenger Mohamed Nasheed earlier said the instances were too limited to affect the outcome.