Male: Maldives must hold a fresh round of presidential polls before October 20, the Supreme Court has ruled while annulling the first round that was held on September 7.
The verdict is a major blow to former Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed who emerged as the winner in the first round.
The first round of fresh presidential poll must be held before the 20th of this month and the second round, if necessary, should be before the 3rd of November 2013, the apex court directed.
The ruling came after a case was filed by the Jumhooree Party (JP) leader Qasim Ibrahim, alleging serious irregularities.
Giving the details of the verdict, Maldivian High Commissioner to India Mohamed Naseer told PTI that the verdict was issued by majority of the 7-judge bench.
"The Supreme Court's judgement was based on the fact that 5,623 votes were cast fraudulently. These include votes cast using false ID cards, in the name of the deceased, by minors, votes cast without a valid ID card, issues of double voting, votes cast using ID cards with conflicting permanent addresses and name differences as well as votes cast by those not registered under the Department of National Registration(DNR).
"It was held that these 5,623 votes are sufficient to significantly alter the positions of the candidates that came 2nd and 3rd in the Election which was 2,677 votes," he said.
The Supreme Court also declared guidelines on how to proceed with the fresh presidential election which include ensuring the right of every citizen above the age of 18 to cast their vote as well as developing the voter register according to the DNR database.
The voter list must also be signed and finger-printed by all the presidential candidates and be visibly displayed to all. Furthermore it was held that the security features of ballot slips must be enhanced, the court said.
The Court also held that the Elections Commission and the relevant state entities must collaborate on how to proceed within 72 hours of this verdict.
The Supreme Court last month had postponed the second round election indefinitely, which was to be held on September 28, on the plea of JP which stood third and missed the chance of a run-off with Nasheed in the second round by a whisker.
Nasheed, 46, won the first round comfortably with 45.45 per cent of the vote and faced a run-off contest on September 28 against Abdullah Yameen, the half-brother of the islands' former autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
According to the Maldivian Constitution, it is mandatory that a run-off election, between top two vote garnering candidates, takes place within 21 days of a first round if no candidate gains more than 50 per cent of the vote.
The political scene in Maldives has been in a state of flux since February 2012 when Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected President, was forced to resign in duress. He was succeeded by Vice-President Mohammed Waheed.