Maldives to hold pres polls on Sep 23

Maldives would hold crunch presidential elections on September 23, the country's electoral watchdog announced Thursday.

Elections Commission made the announcement during an official ceremony with political parties and relevant government and state officials in attendance.

The commission would officially open the elections for interested candidates on July 15 while it has already begun compiling the voters registry and identify locations to place ballot boxes.

Incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom is seeking re-election amid unprecedented political strife in the archipelago.

Former home minister Umar Naseer has also announced his intention to stand for the elections and already launched his campaign as an independent candidate.

The main opposition leaders including former presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed along with Jumhoory Party (JP) leader Gasim Ibrahim and religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla inked pact to form what they called a 'reform alliance'.

With the candidacy of the four leaders - all convicted and serving sentences on questionable charges in serious doubt, the united opposition had announced plans to nominate a single candidate for the upcoming presidential elections.

However, the coalition now seems to have fractured with Nasheed contesting and winning the highly disputed presidential primary held by his party last week.

Elections Commission had said it would not accept the result insisting that Nasheed remains a convicted criminal who is constitutionally ineligible to contest.

Nasheed however, remains hopeful that the government would yield to international pressure and allow him to stand for the elections which now appears to have created massive divisions within his own party.

The commission itself has been dogged by both local and international censure as it fends off allegations of bias against the opposition.