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Maldives high court delays presidential election for third time

The Supreme Court of the Maldives [official website] on Sunday suspended the nation's presidential election for the third time. Former president Mohamed Nasheed received the most votes at the official election Saturday, but Maldives' protocols called for a runoff to be held Sunday. According to media sources, numerous political entities petitioned the high court to halt the election on grounds that a runoff vote one day after an election violates the nation's constitution [NYT report]. In October the high court annulled results from the first round of presidential elections [JURIST report] and called for a new election. A probe of the September 7 voters list found irregularities in 5,623 of the votes, including minors, people voting more than once, deceased people and people not listed in the department of national registration registry. A majority of the seven-judge panel found the irregularities significant enough to affect the results of the first round. In August the high court indefinitely delayed [JURIST report] the second round of elections after the Jumhooree Party [party website, in Dhivehi] filed a complaint alleging discrepancies in the first round of polls. This year's election is the second democratic presidential election in the country's history. Mohamed Nasheed [JURIST news archive], the country's first democratically-elected president, resigned in 2012 after weeks of protests.

The judiciary in the Maldives has faced recent criticism. In October UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay asserted [JURIST report] that the Supreme Court of the Maldives has meddled excessively in the nation's presidential elections. In February the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers found that lawyers and judges in the Maldives are not adequately independent [JURIST report] from outside influence and called for a separation of powers between the parliament and court system. Earlier in February a Maldives court issued a second arrest warrant [JURIST report] for former president Nasheed on charges of the illegal detention of a judge. The charges against Nasheed stemmed from his unilateral order to arrest [JURIST report] Chief Justice Abdulla Mohamed on corruption charges last January, when Nasheed was still president. In September of last year Amnesty International revealed violent human rights violations [JURIST report] committed in the Maldives against opposition groups and called for an immediate independent investigation into the actions of security forces.

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