A new government in the Maldives has won two by-elections, according to results on Sunday, defeating the party of former President Mohamed Nasheed who was unseated in February and, his party said, bolstering its call for an early presidential poll.
The ouster of Nasheed, the islands' first democratically elected president, dented the Indian Ocean archipelago's reputation as a laid-back luxury tourist paradise.
Nasheed and his party say the new government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik is illegitimate and they have been demanding an early presidential election.
The Commonwealth group of mostly former British colonies suspended the Maldives from its democracy watchdog group in February and has backed early elections to end any question over the legality of the transfer of power.
But Waheed has said an early presidential poll needs constitutional changes and improvements in the Election Commission.
Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said the polling for the two parliamentary by-elections, the first since Nasheed's ouster and won by the ruling coalition, according to provisional results, was free and fair which reinforced its call for early polls.
The Elections Commission has said it is possible to hold free and fair elections, said the MDP's acting chairman, Moosa Manik.
But the coup-sponsored government is repeatedly telling the international community the conditions are not right for early elections.
The next election is due in October 2013.
Nasheed has said his party was willing to work with the new administration to make the constitutional changes needed to hold an early election.
(Reporting by Zaheena Rasheed and Hawwa Lubna in Male; Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Robert Birsel)