The first democratically elected president of the Maldives said Sunday that his rivals portraying him as anti-Islamic may have turned some voters against him and possibly denied him a simple majority in the presidential election. Mohamed Nasheed emerged the clear leader in Saturday’s election, receiving 45 percent of the votes, but fell short of the more than 50 percent needed in the first round to avoid a Sept. 28 runoff against Yaamin Abdul Qayyoom, a brother of the Maldives’ former autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Nasheed’s rivals have long accused him of working with Jews and Christians and of trying to undermine Islam in the 100 percent Muslim nation. He was ousted from power midway through his first term last year, plunging the Indian Ocean archipelago into political uncertainty. “Some used religion as a campaign strategy, manipulating it to a large extent, and it did affect a few voters,” Nasheed told reporters.
The religious issue featured prominently in the election campaign, with writings on walls in Male, the capital, reading “Pope Anni.” Nasheed is known as Anni among Maldivians.
He also said that even though the election was largely peaceful, turnout in some areas was higher than the number of registered voters. He said he asked the Elections Commission for an explanation.
Nasheed, who in 2008 won the country’s first multiparty election after 30 years of autocracy, said a decision would be made soon whether to contest the results in court.