Police in the Maldives have forced the postponement of revoting in a disputed presidential election, declaring the poll illegal. The Maldives has just three weeks to elect a new president or face a constitutional crisis.
The Maldives police service prevented election officials from conducting a presidential revote on Saturday, declaring that it would violate a Supreme Court order.
According to Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek, police occupied the bottom floor of his building and blocked election staff from carrying material necessary for Saturday's vote outside.
"We continued with preparations for voting, but the Maldives Police Service have said no documents connected to the election can leave the commission's offices," Thowfeek said in a statement.
"A new date for elections will be announced later," he said.
Just hours earlier the commission declared the revote should go ahead as planned despite last-minute challenges from two out of three presidential candidates. Yaamin Abdul Gayoom and Qasim Ibrahim, who came second and third respectively in the September 7 presidential vote, refused to sign the voters list on Friday, saying it needed to be checked for irregularities.
Police spokesman Abdulla Nawaz told news agency AFP that their failure to sign the list rendered Saturday's vote illegal.
"Only one candidate had signed the voter register and therefore it would have been a violation of the Supreme Court guidelines for the election to go ahead," Nawaz said.
September vote annulled
The planned revote came after the Supreme Court annulled the results of the September ballot, in which former president Mohamed Nasheed (pictured above) came out on top. Nasheed won 45.5 percent of the vote, just short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.
The court backed claims by the third-placed candidate that the voters' registry included fictitious names and those of dead people. Business tycoon Ibrahim insisted he should have qualified for the runoff in place of Gayoom, who won 25.35 percent of the vote.
Time is running out for the Maldives to resolve the political crisis, with incumbent President Mohammed Waheed Hassan, who came in fourth in the September vote, due to end his term on November 11.
Nasheed became the Maldives' first democratically elected president in 2008 when he defeated longstanding autocratic leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom - half-brother of second-place finisher, Yaamin Abdul Gayoom. A controversial decision to sack a top judge in early 2012 sparked a public outcry and led to his resignation. Nasheed claims he was the victim of a coup.
Gayoom had ruled the country for roughly three decades.
ccp/tj (AFP, AP, Reuters)