No clear winner from landmark Maldives election

MALE, October 9, 2008 (AFP) – The first-ever democratic presidential election in the Maldives looked set to go into a second round after Asia’s longest-serving leader apparently failed to deliver a knock-out blow to his rivals.

Official results based on roughly two-thirds of ballots cast showed incumbent President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom — who has run the Indian Ocean archipelago unchallenged for 30 years — in the lead but short of a majority needed to avoid a tough run-off.

The president had just under 40 percent support, the election commission said, with his most outspoken critic — former political prisoner Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed — in second place with around 26 percent.

If the counting trend holds, the two will fight head-to-head within 10 days.

Analysts say Gayoom will have a tough time fighting Nasheed in a run-off if supporters of the other opposition candidates rally behind the one-time Amnesty International “prisoner of conscience.”

“If there is a second round, that would be a big blow to Gayoom. He was so sure of winning in the first round,” said an official from Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which had accused Gayoom of trying to rig the polls.

The landmark presidential vot