File photo of Abdulla Yameen. Photograph:( AFP )
Outgoing Maldives President Abdulla Yameen said disappearing ink and specially treated ballot papers were to blame for his heavy election defeat last month.
The strongman leader of the honeymoon island nation had been expected to romp home in the September 23 poll, with opposition leaders jailed or exiled, and warnings that he would try to fix the vote.
But in a surprise turn of events, a little-known united opposition candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, was declared the winner, sparking celebrations across the tropical holiday destination.
Yameen initially said he accepted defeat, and was ready to step down when his term ends on November 17. But last week he launched a Supreme Court challenge, seeking to annul the result.
At a hearing on Sunday which resumed Monday, Yameen's lawyer Mohamed Saleem accused the printer of coating ballot papers with an unnamed substance to make votes marked in Yameen's box vanish.
Saleem said a "special pen with disappearing ink" had been given to people who were going to vote for his client, a reporter at the hearing said.
A lawyer for the Elections Commission, which Yameen accused of colluding with the printer to ensure his defeat, on Sunday denied any wrongdoing, including using any special ink.
A day ahead of the court hearing in the capital Male, the United States warned "appropriate measures" would be taken if the will of the Maldivian people was undermined.
Europe and India have also issued similar warnings in the past.
The US and its allies have been concerned by growing Chinese influence in the strategically positioned Indian Ocean archipelago, especially under Yameen's authoritarian rule.
Yameen's Progressive Party (PPM) on Saturday said the vote was the "most farcical election in living memory" with the organisation "abysmal" and vote-rigging "rampant".