Maldives vote must go ahead, says frontrunner Nasheed
Former Maldivian president and presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed (C) is all smiles outside the election office in Male on October 18, 2013
Nasheed is the frontrunner for the election re-run, ordered by the Supreme Court when it annulled the results of a first ballot on September 7.
The 46-year-old Nasheed topped last month's aborted contest although he fell short of the 50 percent threshold needed for outright victory.
"There is nothing wrong with the (voters') lists. The elections commission is obliged to hold the elections," Nasheed told reporters Friday after meeting Fuwad Thowfeek, the commission's chairman.
Nasheed called on Thowfeek after the elections chief warned Saturday's polls could be scrapped as two of the candidates have yet to endorse the electoral roll.
Just hours before polling stations were due to open, Thowfeek said Nasheed was the only one of the three candidates who had approved the lists -- a legal prerequisite for the contest to proceed.
"So far, only Nasheed has signed," Thowfeek told reporters in the capital Male. "If the election is not held tomorrow, then the rights of one candidate (Nasheed) will be violated."
The US embassy urged Maldivian politicians to ensure "democracy is not undermined and that free, fair, credible and inclusive elections can take place peacefully and in line with international standards".
"The United States is concerned the re-organised first round of the Maldivian presidential election, set for October 19, may now be postponed," the embassy said.
While urging the other two candidates -- Abdullah Yameen and Qasim Ibrahim -- to approve the voter names, elections chief Thowfeek acknowledged the pair could prevent the contest from taking place.
"Tomorrow's election is in their hands," he said.
Thowfeek said he tried to reach the men through mobile phones, text messages and even sent messengers to their homes, but was unable to secure their approval for the voter lists which contain just over 239,000 names.
Maldivian police in a statement said it had kept boats on standby to take ballots to far-flung atolls but was awaiting the green light from election authorities.
Growing international alarm
Nasheed, who claims he was ousted in a coup last year, won 45.45 percent of the votes cast when the Indian Ocean archipelago went to the polls in a first round on September 7.
Yameen, half brother of the islands' long-time ex-ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, won 25.35 percent and would have faced Nasheed in a run-off last month.
But the Supreme Court subsequently annulled the result, citing irregularities, although international observers said the polls were fair.
The decision to order a re-run this Saturday allowed third-placed candidate Ibrahim, who launched the legal challenge, to re-enter the contest.
While there was no comment from Ibrahim's camp Friday, Yameen's running mate Mohamed Jameel Ahmed said on Twitter he had no faith in the election commission, calling on its members to resign.
"Fair & credible election is not possible with the current members of EC. EC members must resign now, look at the mess they create!" he wrote.
There has been heavy international pressure to ensure the Maldives chooses a new president by November 11 in line with the fledgling democracy's constitution.
Gayoom ruled the Maldives, which has a population of around 350,000, for 30 years until he lost the first democratic election in 2008 to Nasheed.
Observers say Gayoom's supporters still control key levers of power such as the judiciary and do not want to see Nasheed return to office.
Regional power India dispatched Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh for talks with leaders Thursday to ensure the elections go ahead.
"My visit to the Maldives was in the context of the very close relationship" between India and the Maldives," Singh said Friday in New Delhi.
Western diplomats have been following the unfolding events with alarm.
"(Foreign) monitors are already in the Maldives and it will be a shame if they can't hold Saturday's elections," one Western diplomat said.
"The country is going to be in a more difficult situation."
Political tensions have remained high on the honeymoon islands ever since Nasheed was toppled following a mutiny by police in February 2012.
Outgoing president Mohamed Waheed, who replaced Nasheed but is not running, has promised a smooth transition of power.
He was humiliated in the September 7 polls, winning just over five percent of the vote.
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