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Threatened election officials flee Maldives, vote challenged

FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, file photo. Maldivian President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, right, casts his vote at a polling station during presidential election day in Male, Maldives. Yameen, the outgoing president of the Maldives has filed a complaint with police challenging the results of last month's presidential election, which he lost to the opposition candidate. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena, File)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Four of the five members of Maldives’ Elections Commission have fled the country because of threats from supporters of outgoing President Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who accused them of rigging last month’s presidential election in favor of the opposition candidate, the head of the commission said Wednesday.

Yameen’s party filed a complaint with police on Wednesday challenging the results of the election, in which he was decisively defeated by opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Elections Commissioner Ahmed Shareef said groups of Yameen supporters had gathered in front of the members’ homes and threatened them, accusing them of accepting bribes from the opposition.

The opposition alliance said Yameen, who has rolled back many of Maldives’ democratic reforms, is attempting to cling to power after initially conceding defeat.

Yameen’s Progressive Party of the Maldives said in a statement that it was disappointed that only one commission member remained in the country while “there is a national outcry” over the commission’s conduct during the election.

The party said lawyers filed the complaint over “serious allegations of vote rigging, fraud, malpractice and corruption.”

It said the party is seeking a remedy from the High Court and Supreme Court, but did not specify what kind of relief it wants.

The constitution allows two weeks for candidates to submit a challenge from the day that official election results are announced.

The election was generally seen as fair, although the opposition alleged ahead of time that Yameen’s government was using state resources to rig the vote in his favor.

Yameen’s five-year term ends on Nov. 17.

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