The MDP have refuted claims within some local media that former President Mohamed Nasheed is seeking a public referendum over the legitimacy of the curent government headed by Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.
While the constitution does grant the President and the Majlis to call public referendums on “issues of national importance”, MDP spokesperson Hamed Abdul Ghafoor assured Minivan News that this was not the MDP’s current policy and that reports suggesting otherwise were inaccurate.
Speaking last night at the conclusion of a short visit to Sri Lanka, Nasheed reiterated calls for President Waheed to step down as the best solution to the constitutional impasse in the country that has seen ongoing protests and calls from international bodies such as the Commonwealth for early elections.
“If the present President steps down immediately, the Speaker of Parliament can take over, and hold an election within two months,” said Nasheed.
The Maldivian Democratic Party’s calls for an early election after what it saw as the illegitimate removal of Nasheed have been met with sympathetic noises from the current President, who has repeatedly claimed powerlessness to the election date bring forward by any more than 120 days.
Instead he has pointed towards the People’s Majlis as the institution capable of amending the constitution. Additionally, it has been pointed out that a constitutional amendment would be necessary to begin a new five-year term after any early poll – the alternative being to have two elections in 18 months.
The MDP has been calling for an early election since Nasheed’s controversial “resignation” from office. Nasheed claims he was forced to resign under duress as part of a coup d’etat”, sponsored by mutinous elements of the police and military alongside opposition politicians and businessmen.
Mirroring Nasheed’s visit to Sri Lanka, Dunya Maumoon, daughter of former President Maumoon Gayoom, and current State Minister for foreign affairs, made clear the difficulty of the ”catch-22” situation when she spoke with the Sunday Times.
“The MDP says they are not going to let anything proceed unless a date is given for an election. We are adamant that they don’t bully us by holding on to that election date,” explained Dunya.
On Nasheed’s first trip abroad since leaving office, he courted senior diplomats and the press in Colombo in order to build pressure on the current government to accede to the global demands for early elections.
Nasheed’s suggestion comes at a time when alternative methods to resolve the impasse continue to falter. The government was reported yesterday to have refused to continue dialogue with the MDP whilst it carried out what it deemed “terrorist” attacks.
President’s Office Spokesan Abbas Adil Riza believed that some of Nasheed’s discussions whilst in Colombo were intended to build pressure on the government to release those arrested during recent unrest.
“MDP is trying to label the arrested as political prisoners. But the government will not agree to discussions if the MDP preconditions the release of the perpetrators arrested during the recent acts of violence in the country,” Abbas is reported to have said.
The opening of the People’s Majlis last Monday saw renewed violence on the streets of Male’ which prompted the security forces’ removal of the MDP’s ‘Justice Square’ at Lonuziyaaraiy Kohlu. Police Superintendent (SP) Ahmed Mohamed stated at the time that the raid was deemed necessary due to the suspicion that illegal activities were being planned and committed at the camp.
The ensuing court case to determine the legality of this seizure continues this afternoon.
Meanwhile, the MDP has publicly condemned all acts of violence, in particular those targeting police officers, which have seen four law enforcement officials hospitalised in the past week.
The eventual opening of parliament on Monday represented the attainment of one of the seven points on the agenda identified in the all party ‘roadmap’ talks.
While this may have brought hopes of some light at the end of the tunnel, the fractious manner of the inaugural speech; President Waheed struggled to make himself heard over heckling MPs, suggests that its record for poor productivity may continue.
MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, shortly after the event, stated his doubts that the Majlis would be able to bring forward elections in the way his party desired.
“I don’t think it will be possible through the Majlis,” Fahmy said. “A lot of MPs in the parliament supported the coup.”
The intransigence of the largest party could limit the progress of talks in the Majlis and the alleged refusal of the government to continue dialogue with the MDP hints that the all-party talks as a forum for progressive debate may have again broken down once more.
It was a failure to successfully open the Majlis on March 1 amidst MDP protests that saw a number of political bodies, including the DRP and PPM, to walk away from the all-party talks designed to provide a solution to the stalemate. The opening of the Majlis was a condition required by some attendees to facilitate the resumption of these negotiations.