Maldives presidential revote ‘becoming hopeless’
MALE, Maldives (AP) — Holding the Maldives’ presidential revote on Saturday as scheduled is “becoming hopeless” because two candidates have not endorsed the registry of voters as the Supreme Court mandated, the elections commissioner said Friday.
Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek said two of the three candidates did not sign the list by the deadline set by the commission, and by Friday evening election officials were unable to make arrangements for the poll in far-off islands and overseas.
The United States Embassy in neighboring Sri Lanka, also accredited to the Maldives, expressed concern over the possibility of another delay.
“Further efforts to delay the electoral process could undermine the will of the people to choose their representative,” it said in a statement. “Political leaders must come together to ensure that participatory democracy is not undermined.”
The Supreme Court annulled the results of the Sept. 7 presidential election and ordered a revote, agreeing with a losing candidate that the voters’ registry that was used had made-up names and included dead people.
It ordered that the election be held before Oct. 20 and set forth 16 guidelines for the commission, including getting the voters’ list approved by the candidates.
Thowfeek said only former President Mohamed Nasheed has approved the list. The other candidates, Yaamin Abdul Gayoom, a brother of the country’s longtime autocratic leader, and businessman Qasim Ibrahim, who challenged the first-round result in court, have not approved it.
They have asked the commission to verify thousands of fingerprints of voters, which is an impossible task, he said.
“If they are going to put forth such conditions, they are not going to have an election tomorrow,” Thowfeek said. “We are becoming hopeless.”
Nasheed, who became the country’s first democratically elected president in 2008, led the initial vote with more than 45 percent, but failed to secure 50 percent for an outright win. He was set for a runoff with Gayoom, a brother of the Maldives’ 30-year autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, when the Supreme Court annulled the election, which had been hailed by the United Nations, United States, India and Commonwealth observers as largely free and fair.
Sitting President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, who received only 5 percent of the vote, has withdrawn his candidacy for the revote, saying he wants to be an impartial caretaker until there is a change in government.
Nasheed, meanwhile, met with the Elections Commission on Friday and insisted that the revote be held as planned.
“I refuse to give up hope. I believe that we’ll have the election tomorrow,” he told reporters after the meeting.
“Please don’t run away, please don’t hide. Come out and give us this fight,” he told his opponents.
Dunya Maumoon, speaking for Gayoom, said her party decided not to sign the registry because many supporters complained that their names were not included and there were “significant irregularities.”
The Maldives has had a difficult transition to democracy in the past five years.
Nasheed was forced to resign last year midway through his term after he ordered the arrest of a senior judge he perceived as corrupt and partial. Though an inquiry commission has dismissed Nasheed’s claim that he was forced out of power by a coup, the Indian Ocean archipelago remains politically polarized.