The government has said that victory yesterday for its coalition partners in two parliamentary by-elections is a clear indication of its “mandate” amongst the Maldivian people to remain in power until 2013, despite continued local and international calls for early elections.
Following the weekend’s elections, government spokesman Abbas Adil Riza today called on international bodies to take the results of the polls into consideration when reflecting on the need for fresh national polls.
Amidst mostly peaceful voting, official provisional results from the country’s Elections Commission showed that Ahmed Shareef of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhoory Party’s (JP) Abdullah Jabir both beat ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidates to take seats in the People’s Majlis.
From a government perspective, Abbas claimed that the by-elections should be seen as a “vote of confidence” by the public in the national unity government made up of parties such as the JP, the PPM and the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).
However, the MDP maintained yesterday that the by-elections indicated that the country was able to hold “free and fair elections” as soon as possible.
“The MDP has consistently called for early presidential elections in the Maldives to resolve the political deadlock that exists since the unlawful transfer of power on February 7 following police and military backed coup in the Maldives,” stated MDP spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor .
“Elections today are held at a time when [former President Maumoon Abdul] Gayyoom has publicly stated early Presidential elections would not be held in the Maldives citing conditions for elections are not right and also that Elections Commission does not have the capacity to hold early elections in the Maldives.”
In addressing the MDP’s claims, government spokesperson Abbas believed the results of polling for the two parliamentary and two Island Council seats indicated public acceptance of President Waheed’s administration.
“It is clear that there is public support in the country for this government and that there are not any problems with its constitutional mandate to be in power. In three out of the four elections held, the coalition won by a clear majority,” said Abbas. “The MDP has continued to call for early elections, though yesterday’s elections show that the public backs the government until early elections can be held in July 2013.”
Abbas’ comments were made as the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which was last month criticised by President Waheed’s government for showing “bias” in calling for early elections, is set to convene tomorrow.
The political situation in the Maldives since the transfer of power that bought President Waheed into office on February 7 will be a key topic of discussion for the tomorrow’s meeting. The CMAG panel meeting tomorrow comprises of foreign ministers from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Jamaica, Sierra Leone,Tanzania and Trinidad and Tobago.
Since CMAG made its original statement last month about the Maldives situation, the US and EU have also pledged to support the Commonwealth in working to facilitate fair, early elections.
Earlier this month, the US government pledged US$500,000 (Rf7.7 million) to help fund an elections program to assist Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election.
In announcing the elections funding,Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Colombo Valerie Fowler said at the time that the US would “work with the Commonwealth to help the Maldives work through the current situation to elections”.
The US will lend any support, including technical assistance, to ensure the next presidential election in the Maldives is conducted “smoothly and observed the rule of law”, Fowler said.
“Through USAID we are in the process of starting an election programme that will assist Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election. We have allocated US$500,000 to start that process and anticipate that we can begin as soon as July 2012.”
However, Fowler noted that the US believed there needed to be an “environment conducive to early elections”, an aim that could only be created through dialogue, as well as capacity building measures.