Maldives cancels presidential poll over political impasse

Male, Oct 19 (IANS) The Maldives Elections Commissioner Fuad Thaufeeq called off his country's presidential poll just an hour ahead of voting Saturday, citing technical wrangling over the electoral list by two candidates and lack of support from police.

The issue over when the next round will be held will now go back to the Supreme Court for deliberations, Xinhua reported.

However, since the Maldives Constitution demands a new president be sworn in by Nov 11, the Elections Commissioner noted that instead of the customary two rounds, polling may be reduced to just one round due to the pressing time.

A previous round of voting held Sep 7 was annulled by the Supreme Court after two candidates alleged mass scale vote rigging though international monitors said polling was free and fair.

"We will not be able to hold the elections Saturday because the police services blocked our work. There are a lot of police officers on the ground floor at this building and they won't allow any of our staff to take out ballot papers or boxes. So we are not able to move out any of the items required for the voting," Thaufeeq said.

He insisted that his office had made preparations to hold the election across 200 islands even with the delay caused by two presidential candidates.

Abdulla Yamin of Jumhoori Party, who came second after the Sep 7 polling, and Gasim Ibrahim of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), who was third, have refused to sign the electoral list Friday, throwing the elections into doubt.

Gasim even filed a stay order at the Supreme Court hours ahead of polling, seeking a cancellation to the election.

Nonetheless, Thaufeeq said he believes that the election could have gone ahead with the support of the Supreme Court.

"What I found is that the Supreme Court said nothing to stop the election, it is a sign to go ahead with the election, that is my interpretation," he said.

However, the election had to be postponed for lack of support from police, Thaufeeq said.

"According to the verdict of the Supreme Court, the police services are supposed to provide us security, especially in the movement of ballot boxes but the police refused to let us move the ballot boxes to different atolls," he told reporters.

The international community led by India and the US had been pushing for the polling to resume at the earliest but without success.

Maldives President Mohamed Waheed who withdrew from the race Friday called on candidates to work together to hold the presidential election.

The Maldives has been under the cloud of political wrangling since former president Mohamed Nasheed was controversially ousted from power in February 2012.

Nasheed, who won the first round of polling Sep 7, bagged 45.45 percent of the votes and was the only candidate to sign the electoral list.

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