Another election — and another delay — in the growing Maldivian constitutional crisis

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After all of the drama of the past two months, a re-run of the Maldivian presidential election essentially returned the same result as the original September 7 election.maldives

Just as in September, the winner of the November 9 election was Mohammed Nasheed, who won the first free presidential election in Maldivian history in 2008, but who was also subsequently pushed out of power in February 2012 by the country’s police and armed forces following massive protests over rising prices.  Nasheed won 46.93% of the vote, a slight increase over the 45.45% he won in the first round, but not enough to achieve the absolute majority that would avoid a runoff with the second-place candidate.

That would be Abdulla Yameen, who is the brother-in-law of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who served as the president of the Maldives between 1978 and 2008, and who still wields significant influence throughout the country and throughout various Maldivian institutions.  Yameen won 29.72% in the weekend vote, an increase over the 25.32% he won in September.

As in September, Gasin Ibrahim, a businessman and former finance minister in the Gayoom era, finished in third place.

But a complaint from Ibrahim over the first election caused the Maldivian supreme court to annul the results of the September election and cancel the planned runoff, despite general approval from global election monitors that the vote was largely conducted on a free and fair basis.

Scheduled originally for October and postponed until November 9, Nasheed (pictured above) and his supporters hoped that in a re-run he could win over 50% of the vote, thereby definitively returning him to the presidency.

But that didn’t happen, and the Maldivian supreme court has now postponed the runoff once again, despite the fact that it was supposed to be held on Sunday.

The problem with that delay is that a new president is supposed to be inaugurated today — the term of Mohammed Waheed, Nasheed’s former vice president, who assumed the presidency in February 2012, ends today, November 11.  That means that the Maldives will wake up tomorrow in something of a constitutional crisis — with no president, an uncertain and tentative November 16 runoff, and no fixed date for the next presidential inauguration.

That, in turn, could lead to more judicial delay or even a military intervention, both of which would be bad news for Nasheed and for Maldivian democracy, because forces loyal to Gayoom still essentially control the military and the judiciary.

There’s a chance that the runoff will be held later this week, Nasheed and/or Yameen win a clear victory, and the Maldives marks a clean transfer of power to the eventual victor.  But everything about the troubled path to Saturday’s presidential vote indicates that the path back to Maldivian democracy and the rule of law won’t be quite so easy.

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