FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2013, file photo, Maldives' newly elected President Yaamin Abdul Gayoom recites the oath during his inauguration in Male, Maldives. Gayoom, the brother of the Maldives' former authoritarian ruler, was sworn as the country's new president on Sunday, a day after his runoff victory capped a messy election that raised concerns that the tiny archipelago nation's new and fragile democracy was in jeopardy. (AP Photo/Sinan Hussain, File)

Maldives prepares for polls seen as test for young democracy

September 21, 2018 - 1:49 am

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A decade after people took to the streets to welcome democracy to the Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago, voters head to the polls on Sunday in what has become a referendum on whether democracy will stay.

The Maldives' third multiparty presidential election is being held five years after incumbent President Yameen Abdul Gayoom began consolidating power, rolling back press and individual freedoms, asserting control over independent governmental institutions and jailing or forcing major political rivals into exile.

Beyond the postcard image the Maldives has of luxury resorts and white sand beaches, the 400,000 citizens of the former British protectorate have struggled to maintain the democratic system established in 2008.

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