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Maldives leader wins Islamists' support for re-election

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed has won the support of the country's main Islamic party to seek re-election in national polls and is confident of victory, the foreign minister said Wednesday.

Waheed came to power after the controversial resignation of Mohamed Nasheed in February 2012.

He is standing for re-election in the September 7 poll as part of a coalition of four parties, including the main Islamic Adhaalath Party which once called for a ban on men and women dancing in public.

Waheed has pledged the tropical resort nation will remain a bastion of tolerance despite pressure from Adhaalath to adopt a stricter form of sharia or Islamic law.

Minister Abdul Samad Abdullah said Waheed is "very confident that he can win and he is building a broad coalition".

But it was "not conceivable" that any candidate could clinch a first-round win by collecting 51 percent of the vote, Abdullah told AFP during a visit to Sri Lanka for talks with its leaders and Colombo-based diplomats.

"There will have to be a second-round runoff," he said, adding that as a result the parties would need to form alliances.

Nasheed, the country's first democratically-elected president who came to power in 2008 and resigned in February 2012, has already hit the campaign trail, Abdullah added.

Waheed has been under international pressure to allow an "inclusive election" amid several court cases that could disqualify Nasheed as a candidate.

Nasheed says the abuse of power allegations levelled against him in the cases are politically motivated and aimed at disqualifying him from contesting the election.

But Abdullah said the cases were moving slowly and were most unlikely to be decided before the elections, thus allowing Nasheed to stand.

A Commonwealth-supervised investigation rejected Nasheed's claim that he was toppled in a coup backed by Islamic extremists.

The Maldives, a nation of 1,192 Indian Ocean coral islands, has been troubled by political unrest in recent years.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130515/maldives-leader-wins-islamists-support-re-election