- POSTED: 08 Oct 2013 03:28
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The Maldives Supreme Court on Monday annulled the results of last month's presidential elections, in a move likely to deepen international concern amid high tensions on the troubled Indian Ocean archipelago.
MALE: The Maldives Supreme Court on Monday annulled the results of last month's presidential elections, in a move likely to deepen international concern amid high tensions on the troubled Indian Ocean archipelago.
The court annulled the first round of voting, which was held on September 7 and won by former leader Mohamed Nasheed, and ordered a fresh ballot within the next 13 days.
"The court in a majority decision of 4-3 annulled the elections and ordered fresh elections by October 20," a court official told reporters after the long-awaited judgement.
The presidential vote was seen as a key test for the country a year and a half after the violent ousting of Nasheed, the Maldives' first democratically elected president, who came to power in 2008.
The court ordered that if no candidate secured an absolute majority in the fresh elections a run-off election should be held before November 4.
A new president must be in office by November 11, a deadline set by the 1978 constitution that ended 30-year one-party rule by former autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Local and international observer groups had found the first round of voting to be free and fair.
But the Supreme Court suspended a run-off election while it heard a petition into allegations of electoral fraud made by a defeated candidate, businessman Qasim Ibrahim, who demanded that the results be annulled.
Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had won the first round with 45.45 percent of the vote, but not the minimum required 50 percent to win outright.
His Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has been critical of the court and there had been occasionally violent protest since the run-off was suspended on September 23, but there was no immediate sign of fresh protests after Monday's decision.
An official of the MDP told hundreds of supporters outside court that the fresh election could be a blessing in disguise - for the party to win outright.
The third-placed Ibrahim said his party was celebrating as he had another chance at running for president in the country of 350,000 Sunni Muslims.
There had been growing international concern over the hold up of the run-off elections with the UN leading calls for an early resolution of the political crisis.
Hours before Monday's ruling, six masked men set fire to a private television network that supports Nasheed's campaign. The station was back on air by afternoon despite suffering extensive damage.
Nasheed, who claims he was ousted in a coup, had been set to contest the run-off with Abdulla Yameen, a half-brother of former autocrat Gayoom who ruled for three decades until 2008.
Earlier last week, the UN had a special security council briefing on the political unrest in the Maldives, better known as an upmarket honeymoon hotspot.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon had issued several statements calling for calm and for Maldivians to renew their commitment to the constitution and rule of law, and organise credible run-off elections to take place as soon as possible.