President Mohamed Waheed has declared he will stay in power beyond the conclusion of his presidential term, but said he will resign on the day of the run-off, scheduled November 16.
Waheed was due to address the nation at 10:30pm – an hour and a half prior to the expiry of his term – however the announcement was delayed by 45 minutes. His Vice President Waheed Deen resigned this morning.
Minivan News observed large numbers of riot police assembling in Republic Square, prior to Waheed’s announcement tonight. Protests immediately erupted in Male as Special Operations Police clashed with demonstrators near Sosun Magu, with at least 600 people at time of press throwing rocks at riot police.
Waheed, who received just 5.13 percent in the annulled first round vote on September 7, had previously declared that he had no intention of remaining in power “even a day after November 11”.
“To the best of my ability, I attempted to hold a peaceful election in which all candidates and the citizenry’s rights are protected. This is because an election that is inclusive and acceptable to everyone is in the highest interest of this country,” Waheed said on Sunday night.
“Today, as the head of state, my responsibility is to protect the country’s highest interests. Many Maldivians, international organisations and countries are pressuring me to resign and temporarily hand over the government to the People’s Majlis Speaker. On the other hand, even more citizens want me to stay on, to continue with administration of the country, to carry out my duty,” Waheed claimed.
“None of these decisions will be easy for me or the country. No matter what I do, the days to come will not be easy. Hence, upon discussions with many parties, and since I have worked in the past 21 months to hold a peaceful and smooth election, and since the Elections Commission has decided to hold the election on the 16th of this month, I will continue with the duties of the president until the end of the 16th day of this month.
Senior and mid-ranking Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers as recently as yesterday were appealing to their colleagues not to recognise the authority of the President and his cabinet after midnight November 10. Former head of military intelligence Brigadier General Ahmed Nilam was meanwhile summoned to police headquarters prior to Waheed’s announcement.
The Supreme Court on November 9 upheld its earlier ruling on October 7 stating that Waheed could remain in power past the conclusion of his term on November 11, dismissing a parliament resolution passed last week demanding the installment of the speaker after the expiry of the term.
Yameen refused to sign the voter lists needed under Supreme Court guidelines to hold today’s election, declaring that he would only be ready for a vote after November 13.
“I am certain that President Waheed will stay with the Maldivian people at this most difficult time we are facing. I have no doubt about that,” Yameen said following the revote on November 9.
His demand was followed by a stamped but unsigned ruling issued at 5:30am on Sunday morning by the Supreme Court two hours before polls were due to open, which declared that the run-off vote should be held on November 16 despite the Elections Commission and all candidates previously agreeing that it should be held on November 10.
Waheed’s decision to remain in power follows stern statements from the UN, Commonwealth and US expressing “deep concern” at the Supreme Court’s repeated interference in the election, and implied the need for an interim government following the conclusion of the presidential term.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Sir Don McKinnon highlighted Article 124 of the constitution concerning the transfer of power to the Speaker of Parliament should a President resign or be otherwise incapacitated.
“In the absence of a political agreement, the people must look to their Constitution for guidance and have confidence in their Constitution. Article 124 makes clear the spirit and intent of the Constitution for situations such as the one the country is currently facing,” McKinnon stated.
“Article 124 reflects the basic democratic principle that the state’s power must always lie with the people and their elected representatives. This is the fundamental underpinning of the Constitution. Elected representatives speak for the people. I therefore believe that Article 124 offers the most appropriate guidance to avoid constitutional uncertainty and sustain the support of the people,” McKinnon said.
The US Embassy in Colombo stated that “efforts by the Supreme Court to repeatedly and unduly interfere in the electoral process subverts Maldives’ democracy and takes decision-making out of the hands of the people. It is imperative that Maldives proceed to a runoff election with no further interference so that the democratic process can complete the transition to new leadership.”
Yameen is due to face Nasheed in the run-off now scheduled for Saturday November 16. Third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim declared he would not be supporting either candidate in the run-off, although his coalition partner the Adhaalath Party declared its support for Yameen.
Nasheed said on Sunday that if President Waheed continued in government he did not believe the president “or people aligned with him would want an election in the country. I think it is very clear that elections would go our way. If they do not intend to transfer power legally, then we do not see how they would want to have an election. So we don’t think there could be a conducive environment for elections. The Supreme Court will come out with another ruling upon the military or upon the police to definitely obstruct the elections. Come 1the 6th of November, we will be back to square one,” Nasheed said.