Maldives president Mohamed Waheed Hassan withdraws from revote

Maldives

Maldives President Mohamed Waheed Hassan has withdrawn from a presidential revote next week because he wants to be a neutral caretaker of an election marred by allegations of irregularities, his spokesman said Saturday.

Presidential spokesman Masood Imad said Hassan wants to oversee the Oct. 19 revote.

The Maldives' Supreme Court this past week annulled results of the Sept. 7 election, agreeing with a losing candidate that the voters list had made-up names and names of dead people.

Hassan's rival, former President Mohamed Nasheed, led with 45 percent of the vote and was to face a runoff with a brother of the country's former autocrat, who received 25 percent.

But the third-place candidate, businessman Qasim Ibrahim, complained to the court that he had been denied a runoff slot due to flawed voters' lists.

Hassan was last among four candidates with 5 percent of the vote, but Imad insisted his poor showing wasn't the reason for his withdrawal. It was a major setback for a sitting president who has since seen his vice presidential candidate defect to support Nasheed.

The election controversy has sharply divided Maldivians, with Nasheed's supporters accusing the Supreme Court of colluding with the country's former autocratic leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The other two candidates and Hassan accuse the Elections Commission, which insists the first vote was free and fair, of favoring Nasheed.

Hassan, who was formerly vice president to Nasheed, became president last year when his predecessor resigned amid public protests and sliding support from the military and police over his decision to detain a top judge.

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