The Supreme Court of the Maldives on Monday annulled the results of the first round of voting in the country’s presidential election, agreeing with a losing candidate’s claim that the election was flawed. Four judges of a seven-member panel decided that some 5,600 votes cast in the Sept. 7 first round were tainted, making it unclear which candidates qualified for a runoff. The court ordered revoting to be completed by Nov. 3. Former President Mohamed Nasheed led the vote with more than 45 percent but failed to get the needed 50 percent. Yaamin Abdul Gayoom—brother of the South Asian country’s longtime autocratic leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom—finished second and was to face Nasheed in the second round scheduled for Sept. 28.
However, businessman Qasim Ibrahim, who finished a close third, complained that he was denied a runoff slot because of a voter registry that included made-up names and the names of people who are deceased. The difference between the second and third-placed candidates was about 2,700 votes.
The court postponed the election as it heard the case, angering the supporters of front-runner Nasheed.
The decision to annul an election hailed as free and fair by the United Nations, European Union and countries like the United States and neighboring India threatens to exacerbate the political crisis in this island nation that became a democratic system only five years ago.