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Voting in Maldives draws to a close

Voting has ended in parliamentary elections on the Maldives, with turnout believed to have been high. Fallout from a controversial presidential contest last year still looms over the country’s political landscape.

Voters in the Indian Ocean archipeligo nation finished casting their ballots on Saturday, despite concerns that the country's elections commission was understaffed and unable to carry out the ballot properly.

Polling was reported to have been brisk on most of the islands, with election officials saying turnout was expected to be more than 75 percent.

An ally of President Abdulla Yameen had petitioned the Maldives' Supreme Court to delay the parliamentary polls. But, with no decision made by the judges, the election continued as scheduled on Saturday. Results were due to be announced on Sunday.

The court had sacked Election Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek and slapped him with a suspended six-month jail sentence for contempt of court. His deputy, Ahmed Fayaz, was also fired but avoided jail time.

Last week, the president appointed a new member, Ismail Habeeb, to the commission, enabling the body to function with the legally required quorum.

Presidential election fallout

Former commissioner Thowfeek had spoken out against the court's controversial role in last year's chaotic presidential election. The Supreme Court annulled the results of the election's first round - which opposition figure Mohamed Nasheed had won - after complaints that the vote register was stacked with the names of deceased people.

A second attempt at voting was aborted when police halted voting under a court order. On the third and final attempt, current President Yameen won the presidential election. He is the younger half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the atoll nation for three decades.

Although Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party is the front-runner in Saturday's parliamentary polls, observers doubt that either his party or Yameen's Progressive Party will secure a legislative majority.

In total, 240,000 eligible voters can cast their ballots for 302 candidates, who are contesting 85 parliamentary seats in the officially Sunni Muslim nation of 330,000 people.

slk/jlw (AP, AFP, dpa)

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