Police force postponement of election in the Maldives

AFP, MALE, Maldives

Sun, Oct 20, 2013 - Page 1

Police in the Maldives forced the postponement of yesterday’s presidential polls, declaring the vote illegal and blocking ballot papers from leaving the offices of the independent Elections Commission.

The commission just hours earlier announced the vote would go ahead as planned despite 11th-hour court challenges by two candidates who were expected to lose to a former president.

“We continued with preparations for voting, but the Maldives Police Service have said no documents connected to the election can leave the commission’s offices,” commission chairman Fuwad Thowfeek said in a statement. “A new date for elections will be informed later.”

Police spokesman Abdulla Nawaz said they considered it illegal to stage the election in violation of a Supreme Court order that required all candidates to approve electoral lists.

“Only one candidate had signed the voter register and therefore it would have been a violation of the Supreme Court guidelines for the election to go ahead,” Nawaz said.

The Supreme Court last week annulled the first round of voting on Sept. 7, citing irregularities — even though international observers said the polls were free and fair — and ordered a re-run.

Former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed won 45.45 percent of the vote last month — short of the 50 percent threshold needed for outright victory.

Dozens of his supporters shouted anti-government slogans outside the Maldivian Parliament in Male, but there were no reports of violence in the rain-soaked capital where residents were observing a long weekend.

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) slammed the latest scuttling of the elections and called for foreign intervention in the young democracy.

“We see a clear mandate for the international community to intervene and to restrain these undemocratic forces that are preventing a peaceful democratic political transition of the Maldives,” MDP spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said.

He said an “interim arrangement” should be sought.