A man cast his vote at a polling station during presidential election day in Male, Maldives, Sept. 23, 2018.
A man cast his vote at a polling station during presidential election day in Male, Maldives, Sept. 23, 2018.

Voters in the Maldives cast their ballots Sunday in a controversial presidential election.

Both President Abdullah Yameen and opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih voted early in Male, the capital.

Yameen is seeking a second five-year term in office. His path to re-election seems assured with his main rivals either in jail or in exile. He imposed a state of emergency earlier this year after refusing to comply with a Supreme Court order to release detained political leaders.

Maldivian president Yameen Abdul Gayoom casts his
Maldivian president Yameen Abdul Gayoom casts his vote at a polling station during presidential election day in Male, Sept. 23, 2018.

Sunday's election is widely seen as a referendum on whether democracy will survive in the country as Yameen has rolled back many of the democratic freedoms introduced to the nation.

Police conducted a raid on the main opposition's campaign office Saturday, saying that they wanted to stop "illegal activities."

"Mathematically, it is not possible for Yameen to win because all opposition parties are united against him," said Mohamed Nasheed, the Maldives' first democratically elected president. "The results they will announce will be different to what is actually in the ballot boxes."

Nasheed was elected president in the Maldives' first multi-party election in 2008, but he resigned in 2012 amid a military takeover. He lost the 2013 presidential race to Yameen, and was then tried and convicted of terrorism charges in a trial criticized by human rights activists. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison, but later granted medical leave last year to travel to Britain, where he was granted asylum.

Maldivians queue at a polling station during presi
Maldivians queue at a polling station during presidential election day in Male, Sept. 23, 2018.

Maldives is an archipelago of more than 1,000 islands. More than one-third of its 400,000 citizens live in Male. Tourism dominates the economy, with wealthy foreigners flown directly to ultra-expensive resort islands.

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