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Page last updated at 12:41 GMT, Monday, 8 September 2008 13:41 UK

Maldives election 'on 4 October'

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in Sri Lanka 1 August
President Gayoom hopes to win a seventh term in power

The Maldives will hold its first multi-party presidential election on 4 October pending parliamentary approval, the election commission says.

A vote is due by 10 October. President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has already said he will stand in the poll, seeking a seventh term in power.

The election follows reforms introduced after Mr Gayoom was accused of crushing pro-democracy protests in 2004.

A key opposition leader and two former ministers are also expected to stand.

Contenders

"If they complete the supreme court and bill on presidential elections this week, on 4 October we will have the elections," Elections Commissioner Mohamed Ibrahim told a news conference, Reuters reports.

Last month President Gayoom ratified a new constitution bringing in key democratic changes after years of autocratic rule.

He is Asia's longest-serving leader, having held power since 1978.

Hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists are attracted to the luxury atoll resorts in the Indian Ocean archipelago every year.

Their spending power has transformed the economy, leaving average incomes well above the South Asian average.

But Mr Gayoom has been criticised over the islands' human rights record.

Last week terrorism charges were dropped against one of his longest-standing critics, Mohamed Nasheed.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader was accused of using a speech in July 2005 to urge the forcible removal of President Gayoom.

Mr Nasheed is among those expected to stand for president, as is former Finance Minister Gasim Ibrahim and former Attorney General Hassan Saeed.


SEE ALSO
Maldives adopt new constitution
07 Aug 08 |  South Asia
Attack on president of Maldives
08 Jan 08 |  South Asia
Maldives militant move condemned
18 Oct 07 |  South Asia
Country profile: The Maldives
14 Aug 08 |  Country profiles

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