By J.J. Robinson

MALE (Reuters) - The Maldives will hold a new presidential election on November 9, the election commission said on Monday, two days after the police stopped the vote taking place.

The Indian Ocean chain of islands, famous for its luxury resorts, has been in turmoil since February 2012 when former president Mohamed Nasheed was ousted in what his supporters called a coup.

Nasheed, who won the Maldives' first free election in 2008 and was frontrunner for Saturday's halted vote, warned on Sunday of a "constitutional void" if a new election was not held before President Mohamed Waheed's term ends on November 11.

He demanded the resignation of Waheed, who in turn said he would carry the country forward "without any bloodshed" and had no desire to stay in office beyond the deadline.

The police said they stopped the vote because they could not support an election held in contravention of the Supreme Court guidelines after some candidates failed to sign a new voter register. Nasheed's supporters condemned it as a new coup.

"We have decided to hold the first round of presidential elections on November 9, and if necessary, a second round on November 16," Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek told reporters in the capital Male.

He said the commission set the date after discussions with the political parties and the government.

World powers, including the Commonwealth, the United States and Britain, condemned as a threat to democracy the delay to Saturday's polls, which came just weeks after the Supreme Court had annulled a first attempt to hold the election on September 7, citing allegations of fraud.

"LAST DECISION"

Waheed, who was Nasheed's vice president and took power when he was ousted, said he did not want to stay in the office "even a day beyond November 11".

"It is not me who will decide on an arrangement post November 11. I believe the Supreme Court and the People's Majlis (parliament) need to think about this," he told reporters.

Dismissing the international criticism, Waheed said: "I know the dangers and opportunities in the Maldives. We do things with the advice of others like Commonwealth and other governments, but I will make the last decision."

"I have to consider the country's interests to carry the country forward without any bloodshed," he said.

Nasheed has called for blocking of all streets in Male and bring the densely populated island and the capital of the archipelago to a standstill after the delay in the polls.

Nasheed's supporters have staged protests since he was ousted in 2012, and masked men this month fire-bombed a television station that backs Nasheed, who came to international prominence in 2009 after holding a cabinet meeting underwater in scuba gear to highlight the threat of climate change.

His main election rival is Abdulla Yameen, a half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled for 30 years and was considered a dictator by opponents and rights groups. Holiday resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, finance minister under Gayoom, was also running.

Nasheed had looked set to return to office when he won the first round of the election on September 7, putting him in a good position to win a run-off vote set for September 28. But it was cancelled by the Supreme Court citing fraud despite international observers saying the election was free and fair.

The country's new leader will need to tackle a rise in Islamist ideology, rights abuses and a lack of investor confidence after Waheed's government cancelled the biggest foreign investment project, with India's GMR Infrastructure

(Additional reporting by Ranga Sirilal in COLOMBO; Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Alison Williams)

 

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