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Confusion reigns in Maldives over canceled election

AFP-JIJI

The Maldives’ Election Commission sparked confusion Friday over whether elections suspended by the Supreme Court would go ahead as originally scheduled this weekend.

The chief of the independent election body in the troubled Indian Ocean archipelago, Fuad Thaufeeq, told local media late Thursday that voting would take place in defiance of the Supreme Court order, which has been criticized by the international community.

But his deputy, as well as the commission’s spokeswoman, denied any intention to hold the polls, indicating a schism had formed within a crucial institution in the young democracy.

Deputy elections chief Ahmed Fayaz said election workers were merely going ahead with the preparations for Saturday’s ballot in case the court changed its mind.

The local Haveeru newspaper reported that the Supreme Court on Thursday night ordered troops to stop any moves to go ahead with the vote on Saturday.

The top court halted the election Monday following a legal challenge, sparking protests, fears of fresh instability and expressions of concern from India, the United States and the European Union.

The candidate who placed third in the first round of voting on Sept. 7, wealthy businessman Qasim Ibrahim, demanded that the results be annulled over alleged discrepancies. The case is pending.

The vote was seen as a test for the nation a year and a half after the violent ouster of its first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, who came to power in 2008.

Nasheed, 46, won the first round comfortably with 45.45 percent of the vote and faced a run-off Saturday against Abdullah Yameen, the half-brother of former autocratic leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Local and international observer groups found the first round of voting to be free and fair.