September 17, 2008 / 4:10 AM / in 10 years

Maldives presidential poll now set for Oct. 8

MALE, Sept 17 (Reuters) - The Maldives will hold its first-ever multi-party presidential poll on Oct. 8, the Indian Ocean island nation’s electoral commission said.

“The elections date is confirmed for Oct. 8,” Elections Commissioner Mohamed Ibrahim told a news conference late on Tuesday. “The results will be announced at 11:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) on Oct. 9.”

The poll was originally set for Oct. 4, but postponed after delays to parliamentary approval of key elections bills.

A second round must be held if no candidate secures over 50 percent of the initial vote.

The election on the archipelago of 1,200 islands off India’s southern tip will be the culmination of reforms established by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who has held the reins of power since 1978 and is Asia’s longest-serving ruler.

Gayoom in August signed into law constitutional reforms urged for years by pro-democracy activists. He had faced international pressure after a heavy-handed 2004 crackdown on demonstrators by security forces.

Seven other candidates have said they will challenge Gayoom to rule the archipelago of 300,000 mostly Sunni Muslims, which is known for luxury resorts, world-class diving and expensive honeymoons. (Reporting by Judith Evans; Writing by Bryson Hull; Editing by Valerie Lee)

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