Maldives President Mohamed Waheed Hassan has withdrawn from a presidential revote next Saturday because he wants to be a neutral caretaker of an election marred by allegations of irregularities, his spokesman said yesterday.
Presidential spokesman Masood Imad said Hassan would "oversee" the revote.
The Maldives' Supreme Court last week annulled results of the September 7 election, agreeing with a losing candidate that the voters' list had made-up names and names of dead people.
Hassan's rival, former president Mohamed Nasheed, led with 45 per cent of the vote and was to face a run-off with a brother of the country's former autocrat, who received 25 per cent.
But the third-placed candidate, businessman Qasim Ibrahim, successfully complained to the court that he had been denied a run-off slot due to flawed voters' lists.
Hassan was last among four candidates with 5 per cent of the vote, but Imad insisted his poor showing wasn't the reason for his withdrawal. It was a major setback for a sitting president who has since seen his vice-presidential candidate defect to support Nasheed.
The election controversy has sharply divided Maldivians, with Nasheed's supporters accusing the Supreme Court of colluding with former autocratic leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The other two candidates and Hassan accuse the Elections Commission, which insists the first vote was free and fair, of favouring Nasheed.
Hassan, who was formerly vice-president to Nasheed, became president last year when his predecessor resigned amid public protests and sliding support from the military and police over his decision to detain a top judge.