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Maldives seeks support for fresh polls

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Maldives government Tuesday urged all parties to support fresh elections after the Supreme Court annulled last month's polls even though international observers regarded them free and fair.

The government of the honeymoon islands also called for foreign support for the new presidential polls amid deepening international concern about political turmoil in the country.

The independent elections commission said the fresh ballot would be held on October 19 after the court late Monday annulled the first round of voting on September 7.

"October 19 is the (new) date for the elections ," Elections Chief Fuwad Thowfeek told AFP by telephone.

The previous round was won by former leader Mohamed Nasheed who claims he was ousted in a coup last year.

The court cited allegations of electoral fraud in the September poll, which was intended to install a legitimate government after a violent change of power in February 2012 when Nasheed stepped down following a mutiny by police.

The government said in a statement it "seeks support of friendly governments and international organisations to assist the government and all related parties... and encourage everyone concerned to respect and abide by the Supreme Court ruling".

President Mohamed Waheed, a former UN diplomat who has antagonised foreign allies since taking office, pledged a "smooth transfer of power" to the winner of the new election.

Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ruled out campaigning against the court's decision after weeks of protests, saying it was confident of winning fresh elections in a "landslide" and avoiding a run-off.

"The question of accepting the court decision or not does not arise," MDP leader and former foreign minister Ahmed Naseem said.

"The main idea is to go along with the election. It will be quite a landslide for us. People are fed up (with the current regime). We will get back to democracy very soon," he told reporters in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo.

Naseem is among MDP leaders visiting Sri Lanka to encourage diplomats to closely monitor elections in a bid to ensure they are free and fair.

The court in a majority 4-3 decision ruled on Monday that there was evidence of electoral fraud based on unpublished police investigations, which could have influenced the order of the second and third-placed candidates.

Nasheed, the islands' first democratically elected president, won the first round overwhelmingly with 45.45 percent, ahead of Abdullah Yameen, who garnered 25.35 percent.

The third-placed candidate, businessman Gasim Ibrahim, filed the court case alleging fraud after he polled 24.07 percent.

Delegations from the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the European Union as well as local observer groups had declared the first round free and fair, saying any discrepancies would not have affected the result.

The court ordered that if no candidate secured an absolute majority in the fresh elections later this month, then 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 2008 constitution that ended 30 years of one-party rule by autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Hours before the ruling, six masked men set fire to a private television station that supports Nasheed's campaign. It was back on air by the afternoon despite suffering extensive damage.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131008/maldives-seeks-support-fresh-polls