EC to place ballot boxes in 29 more resorts

Maldives' electoral watchdog is set to place ballot boxes in 29 more resorts after yielding to mounting concerns over its initial decision to set up polling stations in only a handful of tourist resorts for the upcoming presidential elections.

Elections Commission had come under intense criticism over its decision to place ballot boxes in just seven resorts for the upcoming presidential elections.

The tropical island destination boasts over 130 resorts throughout the archipelago. But the decision to place ballot boxes in a mere seven resorts would deny a lot of local resort employees the right to vote.

For the last presidential elections, the Elections Commission had placed ballot boxes in resorts with 50 local staff. But this year, the commission had increased the number to 250.

Following the concerns, the commission late Thursday announced that the ceiling has now been reduced to 100.

Commission member Ahmed Akram had told AVAS that ballot boxes would now be placed in resorts with a minimum 100 registered voters.

He said the decision was changed due to concerns from the political parties and tourism industry officials.

Following the change, the commission on Friday announced that ballot boxes would now be placed in 29 more resorts taking the total to 36.

The commission had said a total 452 ballot boxes would be placed for the crunch elections in September.

The commission meanwhile had announced that the crunch elections would be held on September 23 while it would open the elections for interested candidates from July 15.

Incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom is seeking re-election amid unprecedented political strife in the archipelago.

Former home minister Umar Naseer has also announced his intention to stand for the elections and already launched his campaign as an independent candidate.

The opposition has now selected veteran opposition lawmaker Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to lead the opposition alliance in the crunch elections after self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed forfeited his presidential ticket.

MDP during its extraordinary congress amended its charter to award the party ticket to Solih after Nasheed pulled out of the September elections after the country's electoral watchdog rejected his candidacy citing his terrorism conviction.

Nasheed's refusal to back-down earlier had threatened to destroy the once unimaginable alliance he had formed with former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the other two opposition party leaders - Gasim Ibrahim and Sheikh Imran Abdulla.

But Nasheed's sudden withdrawal, has now united the once divided opposition and have finally agreed on nominating a single candidate for the upcoming presidential elections.

Hours after Nasheed's withdrawal, the four leaders in a joint statement said the opposition have now reached an agreement to join forces against incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Gasim's Jumhoory Party (JP) along with Imran's religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) have already come out in support of Solih as the opposition alliance candidate for the elections.

According to the long awaited opposition agreement, the presidential candidate would be Solih while JP has nominated lawmaker Faisal Naseem as his running mate.