EU Asks Maldives Not to Delay Election Runoff

The European Union is calling on authorities in the Maldives not to delay a presidential runoff vote after the Supreme Court postponed the election indefinitely following a complaint of alleged irregularities.

Catherine Ashton, the EU's high representative, said that the "international community recognized the outcome of the first round as inclusive and credible, and considered that it reflected the will of the Maldivian people."

Her statement came two days after the Maldives Supreme Court postponed the runoff election indefinitely after the third-place finisher, tourist resort owner Qasim Ibrahim, sought an annulment of the result, saying the voter's registry contained the names of dead or imaginary people.

"I call upon the responsible Maldivian authorities to ensure that the second round takes place without delay and in accordance with the constitution of the Maldives," Ashton stated in a statement on Wednesday.

The runoff in the Indian Ocean archipelago was scheduled for Sept. 28 after the Sept. 7 vote finished without a clear winner.

Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected president, won more than 45 percent of the vote but needed 50 percent to avoid the runoff. He was to face Yaamin Abdul Qayyoom, a brother of the country's former autocratic leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

In its Monday ruling, the court ordered the Elections Commission to postpone the elections until the court "decides in the case before it."

Soon after the court's decision, members of Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party started street demonstrations demanding that the election be held as scheduled.

The United States, United Nations and the Commonwealth had all hailed the first round as free and fair. An Election Commission spokesman last week denied the allegations of irregularities. Speaking on condition of anonymity because the issue is before the courts, he said the commission was confident that the election results will be held as valid.

The dispute showcases the challenges the young democracy faces, having held its first-ever multi-party election in 2008 after 30 years of autocratic rule.

Maldives has been in political turmoil since Nasheed resigned last year after weeks of public protests and slipping support from the military and police. He later said he was forced to resign at gunpoint by mutinying security forces and politicians backed by the country's former autocrat.

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