MALE Nov 10 The Maldives' top court delayed
holding the second round of the country's presidential poll yet
again on Sunday, prolonging a political crisis that has sparked
international criticism over the Indian Ocean state's repeated
failure to hold free elections.
Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected
leader who first came to power in 2008 after 30 years of one-man
rule, won the first round of voting on Saturday but failed to
win a clear majority.
The run-off was scheduled to take place on Sunday but the
Supreme Court has delayed it until Saturday, in line with
demands from Nasheed's two biggest rivals.
This weekend's poll was the Maldives' third attempt to elect
a new president in as many months, but the democratic process
once again broke down amid bickering between political factions.
The delay makes it unclear who will actually be in charge of
the country from Monday, when the incumbent steps down. It is
yet another distraction for a country known more for its luxury
beach resorts than its recent bouts of unrest.
Whoever wins will face a rise in Islamist ideology, human
rights abuses and a lack of investor confidence. The political
crisis has hit tourism, a vital source of earnings, and the
Maldives has faced fuel shortages because it is unable to pay
suppliers on time amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
"To delay second-round voting beyond the constitutional
requirements for a new government by November 11 will
create uncertainties that may destabilise the Maldives," the
U.S. States Department said in a statement.
"It is unreasonable and unacceptable for parties to continue
to demand changes to an agreed election date."
A Sept. 7 vote was annulled based on a secret police report
which found vote rigging while an October poll was halted by
police after a Supreme Court ruling.
Nasheed, who was ousted from power last year in
circumstances that his supporters say amounted to a coup, won
46.93 percent of the vote, the official results showed.
Nasheed's main opponent is Abdulla Yameen, a half-brother
of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the islands for 30 years and
was considered a dictator by opponents and rights groups. Yameen
won 29.72 percent of the vote, while resort tycoon Gasim
Ibrahim, a finance minister under Gayoom, secured 23.34 percent.
(Writing by Shihar Aneez in Colombo; Editing by Matthias
Williams nd Nick Macfie)