Maldivian court orders fresh presidential poll

Male, Oct 9 (IANS) The Maldives Supreme Court has annulled the results of last month's presidential election while ordering a fresh ballot within 13 days, media reports said Tuesday.

The verdict was issued by a seven-judge Bench after a majority of four judges supported the decision late Monday night, Xinhua reported.

The court ordered that if no candidate secured an absolute majority in the fresh elections to be held before Oct. 20, a runoff election should be held before Nov. 4. During the last round of elections in September, the runaway winner was former president Mohammad Nasheed who was controversially ousted from power in 2012.

However, it is now clear that he together with tycoon Gasim Ibrahim and half-brother of former leader Mohamad Gayoom MP Abdulla Yamin will all re-enter the fray.

Following the results of the first round, Gasim and Yamin lodged cases at the Supreme Court while alleging election rigging and calling for the first round to be annulled.

The prolonged legal wrangles resulted in the second round being postponed by the Supreme Court before being eventually cancelled, sparking protests from Nasheed's supporters.

In its verdict, the Supreme Court noted that a total of 5,623 irregularities were found in the electoral list used for the first round of voting, which was later scrutinised by police forensics. Seven minors had voted in the elections while 773 people whose names were not in the list had voted.

Three people had voted twice while 2,830 people had irregularities in their permanent addresses and another 952 people had discrepancies in their names.

In the light of those findings, the court believed that as only around 2,677 votes had separated the second-placed Abdulla Yamin and third-placed Gasim Ibrahim, the findings are significant enough to affect the results of the first round.

In addition, the Supreme Court also declared a 16-point guideline on how to proceed with fresh polls, expected to be put into practice in a fresh round to be held later this month.

The international community led by the US and UN have also been closely observing the polls and calling for a swift resumption of the electoral process. A new president must be sworn in by Nov 11, according to the Constitution.

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