MALE, Maldives (AP) — Maldives officials on Thursday moved up a possible presidential runoff to Sunday, one day after the election in a bid to avoid a potential constitutional crisis.
Two presidential election attempts since September have failed, and the Indian Ocean archipelago must have an elected president by Nov. 11, when the current presidential term ends. If no clear winner emerges Saturday, the country could have faced a political deadlock as the runoff was originally planned for Nov. 16 and no interim caretaker is mentioned in the constitution.
Elections Commission spokesman Asim Sattar said the runoff was rescheduled for Sunday.
The commission days earlier had rejected a call by the candidates to move up the runoff, citing a lack of time and resources; however, it agreed to a plea from President Mohamed Waheed Hassan on Wednesday.
The Supreme Court annulled a Sept. 7 vote, saying the voters’ register was flawed with fake names and those of dead people. Police stopped a second attempt because the candidates did not approve the voter list as mandated by the Supreme Court.
Hassan also obtained assurances from candidates Wednesday that they will approve the voters’ register.
Maldives is under international pressure to hold a credible election. The U.S. and Britain have warned that a failure would damage the country’s international reputation and the economy. Maldives is heavily reliant on tourism, which contributed 27 percent of the gross domestic product in 2012.
Top U.S. diplomat for South and Central Asia, Nisha Biswal, said the U.S. is heavily engaged in trying to ensure that elections take place.
“The Maldivian people have expressed their desire for a democratic process to unfold and we are working hard to impress on all the political leaders why we think that’s in their interest,” Biswal told reporters in Washington on Thursday.
Maldives has seen much upheaval in the five years it has been a democracy.
Last week, U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay accused the Maldives Supreme Court of interfering with the presidential election and subverting the democratic process.
Mohamed Nasheed, the president elected in the first multiparty election in 2008, resigned midway through his term following public protests and sliding support from the military and police over his order to arrest a senior judge.
Nasheed finished first in the failed September balloting but did not win the majority of votes needed to avoid a runoff. The other candidates are Yaamin Abdul Gayoom, who is a brother of the country’s former autocratic leader, and businessman Qasim Ibrahim, who successfully challenged the September balloting in court.
Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.