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Maldives face presidential runoff after Nasheed fails to secure majority

Former leader Mohamed Nasheed has failed to win an outright majority in the Maldivian presidential election, triggering a runoff vote. But his opponent Yaamin Abdul Gayoom wants the date of the runoff to be postponed.

Although former president Nasheed (pictured above) won the first round vote on Saturday by a wide margin, he failed to secure the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Nasheed received 46 percent of the vote, while his main opponent Yaamin trailed with 30 percent of the ballots. Gasim Ibrahim came in third with 23 percent of the vote, meaning he won't participate in a runoff.

Yaamin has called for the runoff, originally scheduled for Sunday, to be postponed. He said that he needs time to reconcile discrepancies in the voter lists. All the candidates have to sign off on voter lists accounting for the 240,000-strong electorate, after allegations that dead people and children had appeared on past registers.

"I am not ready to accept the voter lists and we need at least 48 hours to approve them. A runoff can be after that," said Yaamin, the half brother of long-time dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

MDP pushes for Sunday runoff

Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is pushing for a quick second round vote. Under the archipelago nation's constitution, a presidential winner has to be declared by Monday. In order to meet this provision, the MDP claims that a runoff has to be held on Sunday in order to avoid a constitutional crisis.

"Our opponents are once again trying to subvert democracy by refusing to sign the voter lists for tomorrow's election," said Ali Shiyam, the MDP's deputy chairman.

But the Supreme Court has ruled that current President Fuwad Thowfeek could remain in office as a caretaker until his successor is chosen. The MDP has called on the international community to push for a Sunday vote.

"The international community must apply pressure - including targeted, punitive sanctions - on those individuals who seek to undermine Maldivian democracy," the MDP said in a press release.

Nasheed, the Indian Ocean state's first democratically elected leader, was ousted from power last year.

Third time's a charm?

Saturday's election was the third time Maldivians have sought to cast their votes for president in as many months. Nasheed won the original election on September 7, but the result was annulled by the Supreme Court, after dead people and children were found on voting registers.

The election was then rescheduled for October 20. But the rerun was stopped by police, after Nasheed's two opponents refused to sign off on voter lists, as required by the Supreme Court in the aftermath of the September 7 irregularities.

The Commonwealth of Nations, an international organization made up mostly of former British colonies, had called for this weekend's runoff vote to go ahead as scheduled.

"It is important now that the electoral process move forward swiftly to its conclusion, with the holding of the second round," said Donald McKinnon, the Commonwealth secretary general's special envoy.

"It is unreasonable and unacceptable for parties to continue to demand changes to an agreed upon date," McKinnon said.

slk/ipj (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)