MALE: Presidential elections in the Maldives were thrown into disarray on Sunday after the Supreme Court suspended a run-off vote, denying former President Mohamed Nasheed the chance to return to power 21 months after he was ousted.
Despite growing international concerns over the Indian Ocean atoll nation’s failure to elect a new president, it is the third time in two months that authorities have stepped in to prevent polls taking place, leaving the nation in political limbo.
Nasheed on Saturday garnered 46.93 percent of the popular vote but fell short of the 50 percent needed to win outright in the country best known as a honeymoon destination, with a run-off scheduled for the following day.
The 46-year-old also came out on top on September 7 in elections that were subsequently annulled by the Supreme Court.
And police action prevented a second vote on October 19 following another court order that said procedures had not been followed, adding to suspicions among foreign governments that the authorities were determined to prevent Nasheed returning to power at any price.
“All relevant state authorities are informed that today’s election cannot take place,” the Supreme Court said in a pre-dawn decision that came just hours before the re-run was due to begin.
The man who came third in Saturday’s vote, business tycoon Qasim Ibrahim, had asked the court for more time to tell his supporters which way to vote in a run-off pitting Nasheed against Abdulla Yameen, half brother of former autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
The court order came after Chief Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek announced he was going ahead with the vote timetable agreed with all the candidates before the first round.
The United States (US) and the Commonwealth had both warned against delaying the run-off vote.
“It is now imperative that the second round take place immediately and in line with Elections Commission directions in order to ensure the Maldivian people are led by an elected president of their choice,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.