President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has said he does not want to stay on as President when his term expires on November 11, as uncertainty continues to hang over the possibility of holding an election after police forcibly stopped Saturday’s polls.
“It is not in the best interest of this country if there is no elected president when the current presidential term ends on November 10. I do not want to stay in this position even a day beyond November 11,” Waheed told the press today.
The Supreme Court verdict, which annulled the first round of election held on September 7, also said Waheed’s government should continue past November 11 if there is no president elect. The Jumhooree Party (JP) and Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) have pledged their support to Waheed staying on, but former President and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed has called for Waheed to resign, allowing a transitional government under the Speaker of Parliament to oversee elections.
Waheed was Nasheed’s former deputy and took over power in February 2012 after Nasheed resigned following a police and military mutiny.
The Supreme Court and People’s Majlis must also be involved in deciding an interim arrangement, Waheed said and added that he does not know what to do should the country fail to elect a president.
“It is not me who will decide on an arrangement post November 11. It is not me who will decide that right? There are others who should shoulder the responsibility. I believe the Supreme Court and the People’s Majlis need to think about this,” he said.
The best way forward was to hold first round on November 2 and if necessary hold a second round on November 9, Waheed said. He has called on the Elections Commission and all presidential candidates to continue talks and come to an agreement on dates and solve the disputes over the voter registry.
Holding an election is not the government’s responsibility, but that of the EC, he repeatedly said. However, the government would not support an election in which majority of presidential candidates refused to contest.
Speaking of the police’s halt of Saturday’s election, Waheed said: “The government’s position was that the government could not support an election that all candidates could not participate in, in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines, an election only one candidate was to participate in. So police told the Elections Commission in writing that they would not support an election in violation of Supreme Court guidelines. Stopping support and stopping an election are very different.”
An hour before polls were to open on Saturday, police surrounded the Elections Commission and forcibly prevented it from proceeding with the scheduled election, stating that they would not facilitate an election in which all three presidential candidates refuse to sign the voter registry. Police had previously obstructed run-off elections due to be held on September 28.
EC President Fuwad Thowfeek has condemned police’s obstruction of elections and said the elections process must not be subject to the whim of candidates. Further, failure of PPM and JP to do what they must do does not mean citizen should be deprived of their right to vote, Thowfeek said.
However, Waheed said elections must only proceed on procedures agreed to by all candidates. At present the elections crisis was not a legal matter, but a political matter and hence must be solved through dialogue.
“I believe not everything can be solved legally. This is a political matter. So politicians must speak to each other, give in when they need to, and come to an agreement. When a date is fixed, [an election] can only succeed when all candidates agree and facilitate the process.
“I will say again, it is not in the interest of the Maldives to hold an election in which only one candidate can contest. The entire international community in the past year and half pressured me not to hold an election that President Nasheed cannot contest. Many parties tried to take action against President Nasheed. I am happy today that President Nasheed can contest. Similarly, President Nasheed has to be happy that other candidates can take part. President Nasheed should not take part in an election that other candidates cannot contest in. If he does so, we should question his moral principles,” he said.
“An election by force cannot be held in the Maldives. An election by force will only cause bloodshed. I will not allow that. To anyone. No matter what the international community says, and no matter what political parties say, my utmost responsibility today is Maldivian citizen’s security. So I will not allow that,” he added.
The United Nations, the Commonwealth, the European Union and several foreign governments including the United States, the United Kingdom and India have urged elections to be expedited.
Waheed said although he accepted advice from foreign organizations, it would be him who made the final decision.
“People of our country are not any less capable or less educated than those in other countries, even the Western countries. They cannot come and tell us what to do. We have lived in difficult places. More difficult places than that in which people who are coming to give lessons have lived in. I have lived. I know. The dangers and opportunities in the Maldives. We do things with the advice of others. The Commonwealth’s advice and other governments. But I will make the last decision. People will slander [me]. A lot of foul things have been said about me. There is none worse than me in the international media. But today, I must not consider what people are saying. I have to consider the country’s interests. To carry the country forward without any bloodshed.”
Waheed has appointed Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim as a mediator between political parties to solve the voter registry dispute, but said an agreement had not yet been found despite several attempts.