Parliamentary polls in Maldives

COLOMBO: Citizens in the Maldives were voting Saturday in the country's first multiparty parliamentary elections, an election official said.

The elections are the culmination of a reform movement that began five years ago, ending decades of authoritarian rule in this Indian Ocean archipelago.

Election commissioner Mohomed Ibrahim said 455 candidates are contesting 77 parliamentary seats. There are 13 registered parties but many candidates are running as independents. More than 210,000 citizens are eligible to vote.

"The voting is going on smoothly," Ibrahim said by telephone from Male. He said results would be announced in one week's time, allowing time for complaints and verifications.

In 2004, mass street demonstrations over the death of a teenager at the hands of prison guards sparked political change in the Maldives, a remote island chain that derives much of its revenue from luxury tourism. Political parties were legalized in 2005 and a new constitution was ratified last year allowing multiparty elections and other democratic reforms.

Former political prisoner Mohamed Nasheed won last year's presidential election, ending decades of authoritarian rule by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.