Maldives presidential revote 'becoming hopeless'

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Associated Press

Posted on October 18, 2013 at 2:01 AM

Updated Friday, Oct 18 at 8:36 AM

MALE, Maldives (AP) — Holding the Maldives' presidential revote on Saturday as scheduled is "becoming hopeless" because two candidates have not endorsed the register of voters as the Supreme Court mandated, the elections commissioner said Friday.

Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek said that two of the three candidates did not sign the list by the deadline set by the commission, and that he was running out of time to dispatch officials and send ballots to voters overseas.

The Supreme Court annulled the results of the Sept. 7 presidential election and ordered a revote, agreeing with a losing candidate that the voters' register that was used had made-up names or listed 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.

According to Thowfeek, 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 was 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Sitting President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, who received only 5 percent of the vote, has withdrawn his candidacy for the revote, saying he wants to be an impartial caretaker until there is a change in government.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 later 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 his meeting.

"Please don't run away, please don't hide. Come out and give us this fight," he told his opponents.

Separately, a Gayoom supporter has filed a court action seeking to disqualify Nasheed from participating in the revote, saying he has spoken against Islam in the predominantly Muslim nation. The moved prompted the U.S. to express concerns that continued legal action may delay the election or exclude Nasheed from it.

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 a local inquiry commission has dismissed Nasheed's claims that he was forced out of power by a coup, the Indian Ocean archipelago remains politically polarized.

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