MALE, MALDIVES, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of Maldivians together with four candidates lined up Saturday at polling stations across 200 islands in the Maldives to decide on their next president nearly 18 months after the first elected president Mohamed Nasheed was ousted, with nearly 50 percent of the vote completed by midday.
Four candidates have entered the fray. They are incumbent President Mohamed Waheed, ousted former president Nasheed, tycoon Gasim Ibrahim and MP Abdulla Yameen who is the half-brother of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Nasheed, who remains the first democratically elected president in the Maldives, was ousted in early 2012, in what he insists was a forced transfer of power. The change promoted his then vice president Mohamed Waheed as the incumbent head of state, who is also contesting as an independent candidate.
All four candidates were in an upbeat mood over the animated turnout where young and old alike stood for hours in snaking lines all across the capital Male.
President Mohamed Waheed decided to be the early bird and cast his vote just 15 minutes after the polling stations opened and told the bevy of international and local media following his move that he was "very confident" of winning the elections.
Tycoon Gasim Ibrahim in the meantime took a leisurely walk to the polling booth to cast his vote around the same time as Waheed.
Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Yameen headed to the polls booth next to the National University of Male.
After casting his vote Yameen told Xinhua that he believed the election was a turning point in the Maldivian history.
However, he admitted that doubts regarding its credibility still remained and that political parties could decide to contest the result, which will be announced early Sunday.
"This (the election) is absolutely crucial. This is the watershed election. Things have gone so wrong for the last four to five years and it is absolutely imperative that we change for the better this time."
When questioned whether he is confident of the elections being free and fair he responded that there were still loopholes that the regulators had failed to close ahead of time.
Yameen has the public endorsement of former President Gayoom and many of his family members are active in the current government.
Former President Mohammed Nasheed decided that he would join the public and stood in a winding line for over half an hour waiting for his term to cast vote.
"I'm very happy to see the large crowds and very confident of winning," he told media as they captured him standing in line.
Over 200, 000 voters are expected to cast their vote by evening in what has been a peaceful election thus far. One candidate will have to get 50 percent plus one vote to be declared president, otherwise a second round will be held later this month.