Ballot printer offered bribe to provide false testimony in election challenge

Several staff of local printing firm M7 which had printed the ballot papers for last month's presidential election have been offered huge sums to falsely testify in the legal challenge filed by incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom seeking to annul the result.

A top official of the company said several staff had been offered huge sums to provide false testimony over the ballot papers while others have been threatened.

"Our staff are in a state of fear. We employ both local and foreign expats. We have now officially asked the police to investigate," the official added.

President Yameen had filed a legal challenge on Wednesday citing rigging and electoral fraud.

In a Twitter post close to midnight, the department of judicial administration said the top court had agreed to hear the case.

According to elections chief Ahmed Shareef, the Supreme Court had held a preliminary hearing on Thursday where the Elections Commission has been asked to respond before 11am on Saturday.

According to Shareef, president Yameen has asked the Supreme Court to annul the election claiming electoral violations.

"We are working to respond as soon as possible. Our lawyers are working on it as we speak," Shareef told AVAS.

Yameen lost the September 23 election by a margin of 16 percent to opposition alliance candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, in an outcome hailed as a win for democracy in the crisis-hit archipelago.

The result was widely accepted, including by the United States, China, India, and the European Union.

Yameen conceded defeat a day after the election but has since alleged widespread irregularities in the vote.

The president, who says he will stay on in office until the end of his term on November 17, has offered little evidence to back his claim.

Solih had been backed by incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's main political rivals including the now jailed former presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Mohamed Nasheed along with Jumhoory Party leader and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim.

However, the ruling party has now claimed that the elections commission had rigged the elections and has been carrying out nightly protests demanding the commission to answer recent allegations.

President Yameen's legal team told local reporters that a constitutional dispute case had been filed in light of the concerns raised by his supporters over the vote.

"We reviewed the numerous complaints filed by president Yameen's supporters before deciding to file this challenge. So in light of that, president Yameen decided that he challenge must be filed for the rights of his supporters," president Yameen's lead lawyer Mohamed Saleem explained.

President Yameen himself had urged his supporters to demand the country's electoral watchdog to answer the numerous allegations of vote rigging that had surfaced after president Yameen had accepted the result and assured a smooth transition of power.