The Maldives’ electoral commission yesterday warned that this weekend’s presidential polls could be scrapped at the last minute as two of the candidates have still to endorse the voting roll.
Just hours before polling stations were due to open, commission chairman Fuwad Thowfeek said former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed was the only one of the three candidates who had approved the lists — a legal prerequisite for today’s contest to proceed.
“So far, only Nasheed has signed,” Thowfeek told reporters in the capital, Male. “If the election is not held tomorrow [Saturday], then the rights of one candidate [Nasheed] will be violated.”
While urging the other two candidates — Abdullah Yameen and Qasim Ibrahim — to endorse the list of names, Thowfeek acknowledged the pair could prevent the contest from taking place.
Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party said it was concerned about the developments and called it an “obstruction of the election process.”
One of his key allies, Shauna Aminath, said Nasheed was meeting with the elections chief and was due to announce his stand later in the day.
“Time is extremely limited and logistics of the elections are difficult,” Aminath said.
“What the other two candidates are doing is obviously the obstruction of the election process,” he said.
Nasheed, a pro-democracy campaigner who claims he was ousted in a coup last year, won 45.45 percent of the votes cast when the Indian Ocean archipelago went to the polls for a first round of voting on Sept. 7.
Yameen, who is the half brother of the nation’s long-time ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, garnered 25.35 percent of the vote and would have faced Nasheed in a run-off last month.
FREE AND FAIR?
However, the Supreme Court subsequently annulled the result, citing irregularities, although international observers said the polls were free and fair.
The decision to order a rerun today also allowed the third-placed candidate Ibrahim, who had launched the legal challenge, to re-enter the contest.
While there was no immediate comment from Ibrahim’s camp yesterday, Yameen’s campaign manager Abdulla Ameen told reporters that his team needed time to study the voter lists.
“We also want to hold the elections, but in accordance with the Supreme Court order,” Ameen said.
Yameen’s running mate, Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, said he had no faith in the election commission, calling on its members to resign.
“Fair & credible election is not possible with the current members of EC [election commission]. EC members must resign now, look at the mess they create now!” Ahmed tweeted.
There has been heavy international pressure to ensure that the Maldives chooses a new president by Nov. 11 in line with the fledgling democracy’s constitution.
Gayoum ruled the Maldives, which has a population of about 350,000, for 30 years until he lost the nation’s first democratic election in 2008 to Nasheed.
Observers say that Gayoum’s supporters still control the key levers of power such as the judiciary and do not want to see Nasheed return to office.