Maldives holds parliamentary election despite doubts over its legality

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 March, 2014, 5:32am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 March, 2014, 5:32am


Parliamentary elections got under way in the Maldives yesterday despite the island nation's new president expressing doubts over whether the vote can be conducted, officials said.

An ally of President Abdulla Yameen had petitioned the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking a delay of the polls, arguing that a depleted Elections Commission may not be able to conduct the vote.

But with no court decision announced, "the election is going ahead as scheduled", Elections Commission official Aishath Reema said.

Former president Mohamed Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party is the front runner, but observers were doubtful if any single party would be able to take the assembly.

The head of the Elections Commission and his deputy were both sacked on March 9 for "disobeying" a Supreme Court order to adjourn part of last year's presidential election, which was eventually won by Yameen.

Yameen questioned whether the commission now had the ability to conduct a free and fair poll for the 85-seat parliament given that two of its five positions were now vacant.

"The commission barely meets the quorum [of three] to hold an election of such importance," Yameen told a rally in the capital Male on Thursday night.

A total of 302 candidates are contesting the 85 seats in parliament. But the executive president, who is directly elected by the people, has wide powers in the country of 330,000 Sunni Muslims.

The sacking of two top election officials nearly two weeks ago has reopened the controversy over last year's presidential election, when the Supreme Court annulled the results of a first round won by Nasheed and then cancelled two other polls at the last minute.

Yameen won the November 16 presidential run-off, five years after the island nation introduced multi-party democracy.

Western nations as well as neighbouring India have said they were closely following developments in a country where recent political unrest has dented its image as a honeymoon paradise for tourists.