Police force delay of Maldives presidential poll
Technical reasons are cited for the delay but India and others express disappointment and note need to restore stability to fledgling democracy
Police in Maldives forced the postponement of yesterday's presidential polls, declaring the vote illegal in a decision that sparked international concern.
The Elections Commission just hours earlier had announced the vote would go ahead as planned despite eleventh-hour court challenges by two candidates who were expected to lose to a former president.
"We continued with preparations for voting, but the Maldives Police Service have said no documents connected to the election can leave the commission's offices," commission chairman Fuwad Thowfeek said, adding that a new election date would be announced later.
India issued a strongly worded statement expressing deep disappointment. "India and the international community have been closely watching the developments in Maldives and are seriously concerned at the attempts to stall the democratic process," the Indian Foreign Ministry said.
A US diplomat expressed concern over the latest obstacle to an election seen as vital to restore stability.
"The failure to hold elections this morning represents a real threat to democracy in the Maldives," the diplomat, asking to remain unnamed, said yesterday.
The outgoing president Mohamed Waheed called for the elections to be held next weekend, and said he was "concerned about the delay in holding elections as planned".
Police spokesman Abdulla Nawaz said they had considered it illegal to stage the election in violation of a Supreme Court order requiring all candidates to approve electoral lists.
"Only one candidate had signed the voter register, and therefore it would have been a violation of the Supreme Court guidelines for the election to go ahead," Nawaz said.
The court this month annulled the first round of voting on September 7, citing irregularities - even though international observers said the polls were fair - and ordered a rerun.
Former president Mohamed Nasheed won 45.45 per cent of the vote in September - short of the 50 per cent threshold needed for outright victory.
Dozens of his supporters shouted anti-government slogans outside the parliament in Male. A banner asked: "Where is our vote?"
But there were no reports of violence in the rain-soaked capital, where it was a long holiday weekend.
Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party slammed the latest scuttling of the elections and called for foreign intervention in the young democracy.
The election was meant to end political tensions that followed the controversial downfall of Nasheed, in February last year, but it has caused more instability in a country that embraced multiparty democracy in 2008.
Nasheed, 46, says he was ousted in a coup involving rogue police.
The police announcement meant the Elections Commission could not transport some ballot boxes to remote islands in the archipelago of 1,192 coral islands scattered across the equator.
The election was to be held in the 202 inhabited islands as well as some tourist resort islands where Maldivians are employed in the country's biggest income generator.