India’s Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai has said the country will back early elections in the Maldives, and pushing for cross-party cooperation and any “necessary constitutional amendments”.
Statements from Mathai were sent to media attached to a document entitled ‘Maldives Elements of a Possible Way Forward’.
“The President [Dr Mohamed Waheed] has come out with a roadmap for an inclusive political process which provides a very good basis for the parties to resolve their differences,” Mathai said.
“Consequent to my discussions, the following formulation was agreed upon by all the parties concerned: ‘In the interests of national reconciliation and to encourage harmony between our citizens, the Government of National Unity will hold discussions with all relevant parties to conduct elections by an early date’,” he said.
“The MDP, on its part, committed itself to encouraging an atmosphere appropriate to the holding of elections. In this context, we understand that their decision to hold a rally tomorrow is being reconsidered,” he added.
“The Government of National Unity will work towards the conditions that will permit such elections to take place including the necessary constitutional amendments. Our understanding is that elections would be held as early as considered feasible by all concerned. This is to be discussed by the parties.”
Mathai said that he had met the leaders of all the main political parties, “including Mohamed Nasheed of the MDP, Abdulla Yameen of the PPM and Thasmeen Ali of the DRP. I also met the Chief Justice and the Speaker of Parliament.
“I reiterated our belief that there is need for a Maldivian-led process for reconciliation and resolving political differences through constitutional means,” he said.
The reaction to the statement from both sides was initially unclear – India’s press conference was to have been held earlier on Thursday afternoon, but was reported delayed due to “new developments”, according to one official. It was later held at 7:00pm.
Meanwhile a press conference due to be held by the MDP this evening was cancelled, while during an earlier meeting with foreign media, Dr Waheed and his newly-appointed political advisor, Dr Hassan Saeed, refrained from committing to early elections and instead reiterated the need for the “right conditions”.
However in a statement on the President’s Office website, linking to the document, Dr Waheed said the roadmap was a “victory” for Maldivians.
“I have an unswerving commitment to the principles of our constitution and a clear vision of how our country can move forward. I am by nature a man who prefers to lead by consensus. This is an opportunity for us to regain the respect of the international community but most importantly continue to build a safe, democratic and prosperous Maldives for all our people,” Dr Waheed said.
“I wish to personally thank the Indian Foreign Secretary for his good offices in facilitating this agreement which has needed all sides to put aside partisan interest for the sake of the country”.
The version of the document on the President’s Office website contained additional paragraphs, including one stating that “the Government of National Unity will ensure the creation of conditions for genuine, free and fair multi-party elections, providing the opportunity for all candidates to compete equally in the elections in 2013. It will strengthen the capacity of the Electoral Commission. It will ensure access of all registered parties and candidates to the media and other means of transmitting positions and platforms and will ensure the political neutrality of the public media. Moreover, it will invite international monitoring of the electoral preparations and the elections.”
Mathai is the second top Indian diplomat dispatched to the Maldives this week, following an earlier visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Special Envoy M Ganapathi.