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Cablegate: Maldives: First Round of Presidential Elections

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLM #0880 2611222
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 171222Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8682
INFO RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 1076
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 8077
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 6258
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 4538
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 2276
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 8695
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2939

UNCLAS COLOMBO 000880

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL MV
SUBJECT: MALDIVES: FIRST ROUND OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
SET FOR OCTOBER 8

REF: COLOMBO 854

1. (U) On September 16, the Election Commission announced
that the first round of Maldives' first ever multi-party
Presidential Elections will take place October 8. The
announcement came after the Majlis passed the Presidential
Elections Bill earlier the same day, clearing the last major
legislative obstacle to holding the vote. Nominations for
presidential candidates are now open and will close on
September 21. Voting will take place on Maldives' 200
inhabited islands, at some tourist resorts and at four
locations abroad. Final results should be available by 11:30
PM on October 9. The Election Commission announced that a
second round, if required, would take place 10 days later.
Post plans to send three embassy staff members to participate
in the EU-led election observation mission for the first
round and a similar number for the second round.

2. (SBU) The new constitution, signed into law on August 7,
stipulates that a second round will be required if no
candidate receives greater than 50 percent of the vote. Most
observers believe that with seven or eight candidates likely
to compete, a second round will be necessary. However, the
Constitution states that voting should be complete by October
10. The Election Commission addressed this, however, saying
that in its view a second round after October 10 would not
violate the Constitution. Maldivian experts tell us that in
all probability the still-unformed Supreme Court will need to
intervene if this situation arises.

3. (SBU) A Colombo-based representative of the main
opposition MDP told Ambassador on September 17 that the
Election Commission had required MDP candidate Mohammed
Nasheed ("Anni") to present a letter from court attesting
that his 2001 conviction for stealing public property (he
picked up some papers that were being thrown out from outside
the former President's house) was not an offense under
Shari'a law. Similarly, Republican Party candidate Gasim
Ibrahim was required to show that his 1970s conviction for an
illicit liaison was not a Shari'a offense. A
disqualification of either candidate on these grounds would
likely elicit widespread public protests. Embassy will
monitor the outcome closely.

4. (SBU) COMMENT: President Gayoom's ruling DRP party and
the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) appear
satisfied with this outcome, despite the abbreviated campaign
calendar. On the other hand, Social Liberal Party candidate
Ibrahim Ismail called the election process a "farce" because
of the compressed schedule. MDP representatives claim their
internal polling shows "Anni" and independent candidate
Hassan Saeed in the top two positions, with President Gayoom
third and Gasim in single digits. The MDP seems eager to
hold an early vote before Gasim's Republican Party, which
lacks a developed grassroots infrastructure, can gain
momentum.
BLAKE

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