Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

UK warns on Maldives poll delay

Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire has warned against further delays to the Maldives presidential election.

Britain has warned that further delays in the Maldives' troubled presidential election could tarnish the country's reputation and harm an economy heavily reliant on tourism.

Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire said that legal challenges to the electoral process appear to be aimed at preventing citizens from expressing their views at the ballot box.

"The unacceptable delays to elections and reports of the intimidation of parliamentarians, NGOs and media organisations have been closely watched by the international community," he said. "Further delays could result in greater damage to the Maldives' international reputation and could have a negative impact upon the Maldives' economy."

The Maldives' Supreme Court annulled the results of the September 7 election, saying that the voter registry was flawed with made-up names and those of dead people. It ordered a new vote, which police then stopped, saying that officials had not complied with all guidelines set out by the court in holding the election.

Now, a third attempt at holding the election has been fixed for November 9. However, the country could face a possible constitutional crisis if none of the three candidates receives more than 50% of the vote because the current presidential term ends on November11, five days before a run-off between the top two candidates would be held.

A prolonged political crisis could wreak havoc on the economy in the Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago known for its luxury resorts. Last year, tourism accounted for 27% of its GDP.

Mr Swire's statement came a day after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that the Maldives' Supreme Court was "interfering excessively" in the presidential election, thereby subverting the democratic process.

The country has faced much political upheaval in the five years since it held its first multi-party election in 2008 after 30 years of autocratic rule.

The Maldives' first democratically elected president resigned midway through his term amid weeks of public protests and slide in support from the military and police after he ordered the arrest of a senior judge.

AP

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