Maldives poll panel cancels election

Male, Sep 27 (IANS) Embattled Maldives Elections Commission late Friday canceled the second round of voting for the presidential election, setting the stage for politically turbulent times for the Indian Ocean group of islands.

The commission made the announcement after having a last minute meeting to decide whether they could go ahead with the election, which was scheduled to be held Saturday, Xinhua reported.

The Maldives Supreme Court Monday indefinitely postponed the second round runoff sparking protests across the capital city of Male.

The date for the runoff would be announced later, the commission added in a press notice.

The announcement said it was the commission's legal obligation to ensure peaceful elections where the people can exercise their right to vote without violence or unrest.

"However, the current atmosphere in the country is not conducive for a peaceful polls," the commission noted.

It also pointed out that the Supreme Court had ordered the security forces to arrest anyone attempting to defy the court's injunction delaying the runoff until it rules on the case filed by presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhoory Party (JP).

The Maldives capital was tense Friday evening as thousands of people supportive of former president Mohamad Nasheed, who was controversially ousted from power in 2012, gathered before the country's Supreme Court demanding that postponed presidential elections be held as scheduled Saturday.

Considered to be Maldives' richest man, Gasim came third by a whisker, polling just some 3000 votes less than former autocratic president Abdul Gayoom's half-brother, Abdulla Yamin, who grabbed 25.35 percent of the votes.

Yamin and Nasheed were scheduled to contest Saturday's second round runoff.

Nearly two thousand supporters together with ousted president Mohammad Nasheed filled the street leading to the Supreme Court but was stopped metres from their destination by about 150 riot police and army.

Nasheed, the first democratically elected president in the Indian Ocean group of islands, obtained 45.45 percent of the votes to win the first round of voting.

However, he failed to get a crucial 50 percent mandate that would have negated the need for a second round.

Nasheed's party has pledged continuous protests till a date for the elections is announced and has insisted the first round of voting was free and fair.

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth, the US, the European Union, the UN, India and Australia have called for the swift resumption of polls and have warned of an outbreak of violence if delays continue.

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