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Maldives opposition leader accepts defeat as president's coalition forecast to win big

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MALE, Maldives — The Maldives' opposition leader on Monday accepted defeat but questioned the credibility of the weekend parliamentary election in which President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's coalition appeared to secure a big victory.

The Elections Commission has not released official results of Saturday's election. But predictions based on the voting show at least 56 seats for Gayoom's four-party coalition in the 85-seat Parliament.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed, whose Maldivian Democratic Party looked to have secured 24 seats, questioned the credibility of the election, which was conducted weeks after the Supreme Court sacked two election officials for contempt of court.

Officials are still verifying ballot papers before confirming results.

The victory means a firm public backing for Gayoom whose controversial victory in last November's presidential election had clouded his credibility. Gayoom is a brother of strongman Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the archipelago for 30 years.

The opposition had accused his party of manipulating the judiciary to win the election.

Weeks before the parliamentary election the Supreme Court sacked the elections commissioner who had spoken out against the judiciary's conduct during the presidential election and handed him a six-month prison sentence suspended for three years. His deputy was also sacked without a jail term.

The Supreme Court annulled results of a Sept. 7 first-round presidential election after another candidate complained that the voters' register contained made-up names and those of dead people.

A widespread outcry erupted after the court decided to annul the September election that local and international monitors found to be free and fair.

MDP candidate Nasheed led that vote but fell short of the 50 percent needed for an outright win. Police acting under a court order stopped a subsequent revote and the long intervals gave Nasheed's opponents enough time to form a coalition and defeat him narrowly in a third election attempt.

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