Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Appeal over Maldives poll rerun

The Maldives government said it is seeking the support of other nations and international organisations in holding the new election

The Maldives government has urged all political parties to accept a Supreme Court ruling throwing out the result of last month's presidential election and vowed that balloting next week will be transparent.

The government said it is seeking the support of other nations and international organisations in holding the new election, and encouraged "everyone concerned to respect and abide by the Supreme Court ruling".

The Elections Commission announced yesterday that the revote will be held on October 19.

On Monday, the court annulled the results of the first round of voting in the presidential election, agreeing with a losing candidate that the vote was flawed.

The election had been hailed as free and fair by the United Nations, the European Union and countries including the US and neighbouring India. The decision to annul the vote threatens to exacerbate the political crisis in the island nation, which held its first multi-party election in 2008 after 30 years of autocratic rule.

The government pledged a "peaceful and transparent" new election and "a smooth transfer of power", according to a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry's website on Monday.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon noted the Supreme Court decision and acknowledged the continuing efforts of the Elections Commission, UN associate spokesman Farhan Haq said in New York.

"The secretary-general once again calls on all Maldivians to ensure a peaceful, inclusive and credible process for these elections," Mr Haq said.

Former president Mohamed Nasheed led the September 7 vote with more than 45% but failed to get the needed 50%, forcing a runoff. Yaamin Abdul Gayoom - brother of the country's long-time autocratic leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom - finished second and was to face Mr Nasheed in the second round scheduled for September 28.

However, businessman Qasim Ibrahim, who finished a close third, complained that he was denied a runoff slot because the voter registry included made-up names and the names of dead people. The difference between the second and third-placed candidates was about 2,700 votes.

Four judges on the seven-member Supreme Court panel ruled that 5,600 votes were tainted and ordered a revote by November 3, angering the supporters of front-runner Mr Nasheed.

The country has been in political turmoil since Mr Nasheed resigned last year after weeks of public protests and declining support from the military and police.

He later said he was forced to resign at gunpoint by mutinying security forces and politicians backed by the country's former autocrat.

Though a commission of inquiry threw out his claim, Mr Nasheed has repeatedly rejected the legitimacy of the government of incumbent president Mohamed Waheed Hassan, his former vice president.

There have been regular protests since the election's postponement by Nasheed supporters, who question the court's impartiality and accuse it of colluding with Mr Gayoom.

The protests have been largely non-violent, but six men broke into a pro-Nasheed television station early on Monday and set it on fire.

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