Underdog is apparent winner in Maldives election run-off

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen casts his vote at a polling station in Male on Nov. 9. Waheed Mohamed / Reuters

Abdulla Yameen won the Maldives presidential election run-off on Saturday, the spokesman for the outgoing leader said, beating favorite Mohamed Nasheed in a close-run contest that voters hope will end nearly two years of political turmoil in the island-nation.

The crisis occasionally spilled over into violent protests in the Indian Ocean holiday paradise after Nasheed, the Maldives' first democratically elected president in 2008, was forced to resign early last year in what he said was a coup.

Three previous attempts to hold the election were annulled or delayed in as many months and, although Nasheed led the first round a week ago, Yameen enjoyed the support of resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, who was eliminated in that ballot.

Yameen is a half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled for 30 years and is considered a dictator by rights groups and opponents. Gasim had been Gayoom's finance minister. 

Imad Masood, spokesman for outgoing president Mohamed Waheed, said Yameen had won more than 51 percent of the vote. "Four more boxes are yet to be counted, but they won't make any difference to the final results," he told Reuters.

The Election Commission had yet to confirm Yameen's victory, and may not announce the final count from an electorate of around 240,000 people until Sunday.

It was not immediately clear whether Nasheed would contest the results. He was due to hold a press conference at 11 p.m. local time in the capital Male.