Maldives Urges Support for New Presidential Vote

By Bharatha Mallawarachi 9 October 2013

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The Maldives government 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 organizations in holding the new election, and encouraged “everyone concerned to respect and abide by the Supreme Court ruling.”

The Elections Commission announced Tuesday that the revote will be held Oct. 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 United States and neighboring 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 Monday night.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon took note of 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,” Haq said.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed led the Sept. 7 vote with more than 45 percent but failed to get the needed 50 percent, forcing a runoff. Yaamin Abdul Gayoom—brother of the country’s longtime autocratic leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom—finished second and was to face Nasheed in the second round scheduled for Sept. 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 people who are deceased. The difference between the second- and third-place 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 be completed by Nov. 3, angering the supporters of front-runner Nasheed.

The country has been in political turmoil since 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, 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’s supporters, who question the court’s impartiality and accuse it of colluding with Gayoom.

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