Former President Mohamed Nasheed and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have called for President Dr Mohamed Waheed to resign, allowing a transitional government under the Speaker of Parliament to oversee elections.
Police yesterday surrounded the Elections Commission in the early hours of the morning and forcibly prevented it from proceeding with the scheduled election, in the apparent absence of explicit orders to do so from either the courts or the executive. Police had previously obstructed run-off elections due to be held on September 28.
Chief Superintendent Abdulla Nawaz told press yesterday that police had “made the decision ourselves” after “seeking advice” from, among others, President Waheed and Attorney General Azima Shukoor. Nawaz did not respond to questions as to whether police had the authority to halt the election, or whether they accepted they were stepping beyond the boundaries of their mandate.
“After we won the first round of elections handsomely on September 7 it became clear to our opponents that they don’t have the support of the people of the country, especially Dr Waheed, who ended up with five percent of the vote,” Nasheed told foreign reporters in Male on Sunday morning.
“We do not now feel it is possible to have an election with Dr Waheed as president, Mohamed Nazim as Defence Minister, and Abdulla Riyaz as the Commissioner of Police,” he said.
“It has become very evident that they have obstructed these elections, and very evident that they are trying to take this country into an unconstitutional void, and then capture long term, unelected military power,” he added.
Asked by reporters whether the MDP would take part in an election without President’s Waheed’s resignation, he confidently replied: “If he doesn’t, you can rest assured that there won’t be an election. They might announce it, but there won’t be an election.”
The government yesterday was pushing the Elections Commission to reschedule a third attempt at elections next week on November 26, however Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek said it would take at least 21 days to re-register the tens of thousands of voters returning home after the Eid holidays.
Thowfeek did raise the possibility of elections on November 9, just two days before the end of the presidential term on November 11 – the deadline for constitutional and potentially international recognition of the present government’s legitimacy.
“We believe that the only prudent way forward, and possible solution for the situation, is for Dr Waheed to today resign and the Speaker of Parliament to take over government before November 11 and until the election,” said Nasheed.
“We want elections to be held under this [environment], and not under the unelected, unrepresentative rule of Dr Waheed. This is our view. We don’t see any reason why there should be any more negotiation on an election date or any such issue, but rather we feel Dr Waheed should resign, and Abdulla Shahid take over,” Nasheed said.
“We feel this must happen in the next few days as time is running out.”
President Mohamed Waheed raised the prospect of resignation himself in an interview yesterday with The Hindu, stating that while it was not in the interest of the country “to have an election forced on it”, he had no interest in remaining in power beyond November 11.
“I am not comfortable to stay on. It would be my preference that there be an elected President. And it would also be my preference that if this is not possible, then there would be some other arrangement made,” Waheed told The Hindu.
Waheed – who has withdrawn from the election – said he was confident he would be able to convince all candidates to participate by threatening his resignation. If they did not, “I will tell them I will resign, and then, so will the Vice-President. After that, the responsibility will fall on the Speaker [to assume office],” Waheed said.
Speaker Abdulla Shahid told Minivan News: “It’s quite clear from the statements made by the police and executive that they halted yesterday’s scheduled election. The President has to take responsibility for that.”
“The constitution is quite clear on the responsibilities of the Speaker [should the president resign]. As speaker I will always carry out my constitutional duties,” he said.
Protests and international assistance
Sit-down protests that sprang up across Male yesterday following the police obstruction of elections were not planned by the Maldivian Democratic Party, Nasheed said.
“The people came out. It is going to build up. If the MDP doesn’t give leadership to these protests, we will soon see them get out of hand,” Nasheed said.
He dismissed the prospect of the MDP encouraging violent protests, noting that “of the 40-odd struggles for democracy across the world in the last century, only four have succeeded through violence.”
“I think it is very evident that a capacity for violence is not necessarily going to give us the success or democracy that we want. I think the capacity for resilience, and to withhold, will give us better results. We will have that struggle,” he said.
“We will go for direct action and peaceful political activity. We will beg the international community to assist us. We will always request well-wishers to be party in the democratic struggle in the Maldives,” Nasheed added.
Many rank-and-file members of the police and military were supportive of the MDP, if not the democratic process, he observed.
“The rank and file are well with us. There was one ballot box specifically for police and military, in Addu Gan. We got 70 percent in it. The vast majority of the police and military are voting for us,” Nasheed said.
He said the party was not interested in instigating a conflict between the security forces, noting that this would have a “a very serious effect on Indian Ocean stability.”
Nasheed appealed to the international community to step up its assistance with election logistics.
“I don’t think asking for an election to be secure is asking for an invasion or meddling with the internal affairs of the Maldives. We are simply asking for assistance with the logistics of holding an election. If you see this as foreign intervention, then that is a reflection on how xenophobic you yourself are,” Nasheed said.
“The international community have assisted with other logistics such as printing and IT. All in all the US has spent US$3 million, about the same as the Commonwealth, and probably the Indian government. We only asking them to assist the Elections Commission with logistics, and distributing and safeguarding ballot boxes.
“What more honourable request can a country make than asking for help with an election? We are not asking the international community to bomb anyone. We are simply asking them to look after the boxes, and left the people decide what they want,” Nasheed said.
He said he also hoped for “more robust international engagement to make sure that these important transitional arrangements are made. We don’t think we ourselves alone can overcome this.”
“We must isolate Waheed. He was the main instigator of the coup and he got away with toppling an elected government. He has nullified the first round of elections, nullified a very successful second round election, and yesterday nullified a repeat of the first round. The list goes on,” Nasheed said.
The MDP would be meeting on Sunday afternoon to decide on specific action to take, he noted.