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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 January, 2005, 12:28 GMT
Activists 'win seats' in Maldives
President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
President Gayoom is Asia's longest-serving leader
Opposition activists in the Maldives have won the two seats for the capital, Male, in parliamentary elections, provisional results show.

No political parties are allowed in the Maldives and President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has ruled there since 1978.

The government said the election was a "great day for democracy" and pledged to speed up parliamentary reforms.

The election was delayed for three weeks by the Asian tsunami, in which 82 Maldivian citizens were killed.

Spill over

Unofficial provisional results on Sunday showed that Ibrahim Ismail and Mohamed Shihab had secured most votes for Male, beating two of the president's supporters, including fisheries minister Abdullah Kamaldeen.

Both opposition candidates were endorsed by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which is based in Sri Lanka.

MDP member Ahmed Abbas said it hoped that the candidates it backed would win at least 14 seats.

It is better to have people like Ismail in parliament rather than on the streets making trouble
Ahmed Shaheed,
government spokesman

Voting took place on Saturday, although Chief Election Commissioner Ibrahim Rashad said it spilled over to Sunday because of a shortage of ballot papers in some areas.

Final results are to be confirmed on Tuesday.

Chief government spokesman, Ahmed Shaheed, said the Male vote was "a clear indication that the election was free and fair. There was no vote tampering or any other irregularities".

He added: "It is a great day for democracy. With the election over... the road is now open to accelerate the reform agenda."

With no parties allowed, 149 candidates stood as independents for the 42-seat assembly.

During campaigning, reformist candidates complained of irregularities, including allegations that the government had threatened voters with withholding tsunami reconstruction aid.

Government spokesman Mohamed Shareef denied the allegations, saying the vote was free and the turnout "very promising considering the circumstances".

President Gayoom, who holds executive power and is Asia's longest-serving political leader, has promised political changes.

He has said he will allow political parties but the necessary constitutional amendments are still being discussed.

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