Wed, Oct 09, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Maldives court annuls election, orders new one

AFP, MALE

The Maldivian government yesterday urged all parties to back fresh elections after the Supreme Court annulled last month’s results, a move that has raised fears of new tensions on the troubled archipelago.

The government also called for international support for the new presidential polls, which are expected to be held by Oct. 20, after deepening concern overseas over the constitutional turmoil in the country.

The court ordered a fresh ballot late on Monday, suspending the first round of voting on Sept. 7 that was won by former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed and hailed as free and fair by local and international observers.

The court cited allegations of electoral fraud in last month’s poll, which had been expected to end political turmoil in the country 18 months after the violent ousting of Nasheed, the Maldives’ first democratically elected president.

“The government... seeks support of friendly governments and international organizations to assist the government and all related parties ... and encourage everyone concerned to respect and abide by the Supreme Court ruling,” Male said in a statement.

The government of Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed also pledged a “smooth transfer of power” to the winner of the fresh election.

The court had suspended a run-off election that was due to take place on Sept. 28 on allegations of irregularities in the first round in which Nasheed narrowly missed garnering 50 percent of the ballots needed to claim outright victory.

The court’s decision to suspend the run-off angered Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party, sparking occasionally violent protests across the country.

The Maldives has resisted international pressure to ensure that the run-off takes place without delay and Waheed has maintained that they must allow the legal process to take its course.

Delegations from the Commonwealth, the UN and the EU had declared the first round to be free and fair.

On Monday, the court annulled the first round and ordered a fresh ballot within 13 days after hearing a petition on allegations of electoral fraud made by a defeated candidate, businessman Qasim Ibrahim.

“The court in a majority decision of 4-3 annulled the elections and ordered fresh elections by Oct. 20,” a court official told reporters after the judgement.

The court ordered that if no candidate secured an absolute majority in the fresh election, a run-off election should be held before Nov. 4. A new president must be in office by Nov. 11, a deadline set by the 1978 constitution that ended 30-year one-party rule of former Maldivian leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Hours before the ruling, six masked men set fire to a private television network that supports Nasheed’s campaign. The station was back on air by afternoon despite suffering extensive damage.

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