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Page last updated at 15:08 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 16:08 UK

Maldives elections 'are delayed'

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

The first multi-party presidential polls in the Maldives will not be held on time because of parliamentary delays in passing reforms, officials say.

They say that the new date for the vote is yet to be decided.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has already said he will stand in the poll, seeking a seventh term in power.

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

"The date will be delayed. It depends on which day next week they pass the bills. It's hard to say if we can have an election by 10 October," Mohamed Tholal, assistant director-general of the Elections Commission, told the Reuters news agency.

Under the terms of a new constitution that President Gayoom signed into law last month, 10 October is the date by which the vote must be held.

"If there were a failure to meet the deadline, the country would go into a constitutional void," Information Minister Mohamed Nasheed told Reuters.

He blamed members of parliament for the delay.

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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