India pays tributes to Maldives elections

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New Delhi, Oct 16 (UNI) India today expressed happiness at the peaceful conduct of the fiirst round of multi-party elections in the Maldives, paying tributes to the ''sagacity'' of the country's President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and said it was ready to assist the people of the island nation in their transition to democracy.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement it was now for the people of Maldives to take necessary decisions about their future in the next round of elections which would be held soon.

''We are heartened by the peaceful and fair manner in which the first round of multiparty Presidential elections in Maldives took place recently. The fact of the election under the new Constitution, and the manner of their conduct, are a tribute to the sagacity and foresight of President Gayoom who had led the Maldives in its steady progress towards democratisation and all round social development,'' the External Affairs Minister said.

He said the elections saw a high turn out of voters (85.5%) and aadded that it was for the people of Maldives to take necessary decisions about their future in the next round of elections which will be held soon.

Observing that India and Maldives have close and friendly relations, Mr Mukherjee said India stood ready to continue to assist the ''friendly people'' of the Maldives in their democratic transition and in their march towards prosperity.

Maldives went to the polls on October 8, the first time President Gayoom, who has ruled the country since 1978, agreed to allow multi-party elections in the Indian Ocean island.

UNI RB JT KN2157

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