Maldives police defend blocking presidential poll

Male, Oct 19 (IANS) The Maldives police Saturday defended their move to stop the presidential election scheduled for earlier in the day, and insisted a vote would have been "unlawful" and could have sparked "national instability".

Maldives police spokesman and Superintendent of Police Abdulla Nawaz told reporters that support could not have been given to an election that did not meet the 16-point poll guideline set by the country's Supreme Court.

Nawaz insisted that article five of the Supreme Court guideline, which says the candidates have to sign the electoral list, was clearly not met after tycoon Gasim Ibrahim and former president Gayoom's half-brother MP Abdulla Yamin refused to abide by it.

Only former president Mohammad Nasheed, who won the previous round of polling Sep 7, accepted the list, saying the errors were "negligible".

The first round of vote was annulled by the Supreme Court earlier this month and the guideline was set in place for the second round of voting. However, the Elections Commission was only given 12 days to organise voting across the 200 islands that make up the Maldives archipelago.

Maldives Elections Commissioner Fuad Thaufeeq accused the police of effectively stopping the vote by failing to provide the logistical assistance needed to hold the presidential polling.

Thaufeeq said the police stopped the process by not allowing ballot papers and boxes to leave the Elections Commission office.

"Maldives police service has, in fact, requested to the Elections Commission that police are having difficulties in supporting them in the poll. It is mainly because the Supreme Court ruling and guidelines which state that all 16 points must be done," Nawaz said.

He said the decision for the police not to assist the polling was taken after consultations with the National Security Council, attorney general, the Maldives president and the acting home minister as well as the Commonwealth advisor who was assigned to oversee the election.

"We are totally independent as an institution but we have to rely on the Supreme Court ruling and we are following that," he said.

"I believe police have to take responsibility of the security of the election," he added.

The deadlock means the Maldives has only two weeks to hold a third round of polling to elect a president and install him before the constitutional deadline of Nov 11.

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

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

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