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US concerned lawsuits may delay Maldives revote

Friday - 10/11/2013, 2:30pm  ET

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) -- The United States has expressed concern that continued legal action may delay a revote of last month's Maldives presidential election and prevent a leading candidate from participating.

The statement came after a member of the ruling alliance went to court seeking to disqualify former President Mohamed Nasheed from competing in the Oct. 19 revote, claiming that he has spoken against Islam.

"We continue to urge a peaceful political process that is inclusive of all candidates in order to ensure the Maldivian election that will meet international standards of an elected, legitimate democracy," the statement quoted State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf as saying Thursday.

The court has not decided whether it will hear the case against Nasheed.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a directive in response to a separate petition asking the Elections Commission to reregister some voters, a process which Nasheed's supporters believe would delay the election.

The directive prompted Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party to accuse the judiciary of colluding with the country's former autocratic leader, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The Supreme Court this week annulled results of the Sept. 7 first round of voting, agreeing with a losing candidate that the election was flawed. The United Nations, the U.S. and the European Union had described the voting as free and fair.

Nasheed led the first round but failed to get the 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff. Yaamin Abdul Gayoom -- brother of the longtime autocrat -- finished second and was to face Nasheed in a Sept. 28 runoff.

However, businessman Qasim Ibrahim finished a close third and complained that he was denied a runoff slot because the voter registry included made-up names and the names of people who are deceased. The difference between the second- and third-place candidates was about 2,700 votes.

The Maldives had its first multiparty election in 2008. Nasheed, who won the election, resigned last year amid public protests and sliding support from the military and police over his order to arrest a senior judge.

Nasheed's rivals have long accused him of undermining Islam in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation of 350,000 people south of India. During his presidency Nasheed forged closer ties with Israel, with his foreign minister visiting Tel Aviv and his government agreeing to direct flights between the nations.


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