President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has told the BBC he would not necessarily resign even if the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI) were to find evidence of a coup, following investigations of the ousting of the former President Mohamed Nasheed.
“If [the commission] find out that I had a role in bringing about a coup, then I would definitely resign,” he said.
“But if I have no role – if somebody else has done it – it doesn’t mean I have to resign, according to the law of the Maldives.”
Waheed’s interview with the BBC came whilst the President was in London as an invitee to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
He would not be drawn into debate ovr what course of action he would take should the commission determine the circumstances surrounding the transfer of power in February to have been illegal.
The BBC reported Waheed as saying only that he would seek “legal guidance” in this eventuality.
Waheed suggested that the consequences of his resignation and a premature election would be far worse for the country.
“We have to consider the political situation. We have other political parties – big political parties – who are not ready for an election. I have to exercise my judgement – as leader of the country – to make sure we don’t get into a worse political turmoil.”
He also told the UK’s Financial Times that calling early elections would be “reckless”, as it would require him to resign hand power to the Speaker of Parliament, Dr Abdulla Shahid, “who got elected with just 2,000 votes”.
Dr Waheed’s own Gaumee Ithihaad Party (GIP) received 518 votes in the 2009 Parliamentary Election, and had 2625 members as of February 27.
President’s Office Spokesman Abbas Adil Riza explained that the suggestion that some big political parties were not ready for elections referred to the “unanimous” desire of all political parties to introduce new legislation that would govern the activities of political parties.
Abbas claimed that a ‘Political Parties Act’ was discussed at the all party talks held at Bandos Island resort last weekend. Such legislation would make it easier to penalise parties who fail to accept the outcomes of elections or who violate the law, he said.
The Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) international spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor agreed that both elections and reforms were needed to move out of the current political crisis, but questioned the President’s ability to oversee the required changes.
“He is unable to get these reforms as he is not in control of the coalition, which is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode,” said Ghafoor.
Ghafoor saw such comments as an attempt by the President to posit himself as an interim president.
“I suspect he is playing the victim card, saying ‘I am holding on for the sake of this country’, pleading with the international community to help him, “ Ghafoor continued.
Former Maldives High Commissioner to the UK Dr Farahanaz Faizal told the BBC that Waheed’s February move from the Vice President’s to the President’s office would become an illegitimate one if any kind of coup is proven.
“If the elected president has been deposed unconstitutionally, then there is no rightful succession of the vice-president,” said Faizal.
Not ready for elections?
When speaking with the BBC in April, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon also argued that reforms were needed before free and fair elections could be held.
One of the institutions criticised by Dunya, the Elections Commission (EC), dismissed suggestions that it was too weak to supervise polls almost immediately after they were made, claiming it was ready to hold any election when required.
This claim appeared to be substantiated later in the month as several elections, including two parliamentary by-elections, were held over the same weekend in mid-April without incident.
Abbas told Minivan News today that reform of the EC was an issue raised again at the Bandos round of all party talks.
Identifying necessary reforms for independent posts and institutions, discussing laws to be enacted, and possible amendments to the constitutions were third, fourth and fifth, respectively, on the talks’ six point agenda.
Setting a date for fresh presidential elections was last on the list.
The first item on the party talks’ agenda was solving the problem of public disturbances, the governing coalition’s solutions to which led the MDP to argue that the talks were not being taken seriously.
Among the 30 points suggested by the coalition to alleviate “political turbulence” in the country, it was suggested that all partys stop practicing black magic and using sexual and erotic tools.
It was also suggested that parties not walk in groups of more than 10, not hold rallies in the street, and stop the use of megaphones in protests.
The MDP yesterday held its usual Friday protest as many hundreds marched round the streets of the capital. Loudspeakers accompanied the rally, challenging the legitimacy of the current government and calling for early elections.
The party’s rally yesterday was also used as an opportunity to celebrate world environment day.
Earlier this week, US Senator Robert Casey, who Chairs the Senate’s Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs Subcommittee, called for elections as early as possible “to ensure that the seeds of the democratic process planted in 2008 are able to flourish.”
In April United States pledged US$500,000 (Rf7.7million) in technical assistance to assist Maldivian institutions in holding free and fair presidential elections, available from July 2012.
However President Waheed has said repeatedly that he is constitutionally restrained from bringing elections forward any further than July 2013.