x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Police stop presidential election in Maldives

Police say the vote was stopped because the election commissioner failed to comply with a court order over the voter registation list.

A supporter of presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed yells at policemen during protests against the cancellation of Saturday's elections. Dinuka Liyanawatte / Reuters
A supporter of presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed yells at policemen during protests against the cancellation of Saturday's elections. Dinuka Liyanawatte / Reuters

MALE // Maldives sank further into political disarray on Saturday when police blocked officials from conducting a presidential revote, saying that holding the election would violate a supreme-court order.

It was the latest blow to this young democracy, which has only about three weeks before the end of the current president’s term. If his replacement is not elected by then it will spark a constitutional crisis.

The top court annulled the results of the September 7 presidential election, agreeing with a losing candidate that the voters’ registry included fictitious names and dead people, but it set conditions for a revote that police said elections officials did not meet.

Fuwad Thowfeek, the elections commissioner, attempted to hold the election as scheduled, but on Saturday morning he said the ground floor of his building was full of policemen stopping his staff from carrying election material outside. He then called the election off.

Abdulla Nawaz, a police spokesman, said the election was stopped because the commissioner did not comply with a court order to have the voters’ list endorsed by all the candidates.

Mr Thowfeek accused the police of overstepping their legitimate role.

“They kind of think they can be our bosses and we are an institution below them, and that they can dictate to us and control us.”

Mr Nawaz said police acted after consulting with the sitting president Mohamed Waheed Hassan, the security council, the attorney general and the home ministry.

Two of the three presidential candidates did not sign the voters’ list on Friday, saying it needed to be verified for any irregularities, but Mr Thowfeek had said their demands for double-checking the list were impossible to meet in time for the election.

The supreme court said in its ruling annulling the September election that a revote must take place before Sunday. It likely will need to issue a new ruling in order for an election to be held before Mr Hassan’s term ends on November 11.

The Maldives became a democracy five years ago after 30 years of autocratic rule and has had a difficult transition.

Its first democratically elected president, Mohamed 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. Mr Nasheed says he was forced out of power by a coup.

The country’s institutions such as the judiciary, police and public service are often perceived as partial and dominated by those loyal to the country’s former autocratic leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who lost to Mr Nasheed in 2008.

Mr Nasheed, who finished first in the September balloting but did not win the majority of votes needed to avoid a run-off, had endorsed the voter list. The other candidates – Yaamin Abdul Gayoom, a brother of Mr Maumoon, and the businessman Qasim Ibrahim, who challenged the first-round result in court – did not.

* Associated Press