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Maldives set for run-off vote in presidential election

Ousted leader Mohamed Nasheed is leading the first round of polls in the Maldives presidential election. But he has fallen short of winning the required 51 percent of the vote, meaning a run-off is required.

Nasheed (pictured above) was leading with 45 percent of the vote, the Election Commission said Sunday. He faces a run-off election on September 28.

"At this stage none of the candidates has scored above 50 percent," the head of the commission, Faud Thaufeeq, told reporters. "On the whole, [voting] was very calm and very peaceful."

Nasheed, the first democratically elected leader of the Maldives, was removed from office in February 2012 in what his supporters call a coup. The 46-year-old, a keen scuba diver and advocate of social programs, grabbed world headlines on climate change in 2009 when he held a cabinet meeting under water.

His opponent in the run-off will be either Abdulla Yameen, half-brother of long-time Maldivian strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, or wealthy resort owner Gasim Ibrahim. Both men appeared to be hovering around 25 percent. Incumbent President Mohamed Waheed trailed far behind, with around 5 percent of the vote.

Voting took place on all the major inhabited islands of the well-known "paradise" tourist destination. Turnout was estimated at around 83 percent for the country's 240,000 registered voters.

The Indian Ocean archipelago, comprising 1,192 scattered coral islands, rises to 2.4 meters above sea level at its highest point. Sea-level rise attributed to climate change has been a key election issue.

The Maldives held its first free elections in 2008 after around three decades of autocratic rule under Gayoom.

dr/av (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)