President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has assured the public of a “free and fair” presidential election in 2013 as part of his New Year statement.
Waheed used his address to announce that preparations for the 2013 presidential elections were already underway and that the government intended to take “all necessary measures” to ensure a fair election.
Following political tension in the nation following the controversial transfer of power on February 7, 2012, President Waheed said it would be vital in the build up to this year’s election for society to put aside its differences.
“As we prepare for the upcoming elections, I urge the people to strengthen the harmony and unity that have existed in the Maldivian society over the years, and not to allow anyone to disrupt this social harmony,” he said.
“The year 2012 saw major challenges, especially in the political challenges, in the country. It was, however, a year in which steps were taken with patience to maintain the security, safety and harmony of the country and its people,” he said.
The President assured the public that the government intended to improve both the general welfare and security of the people within the capacity of the budget passed by the People’s Majlis on December 27.
“The government will continue to create a safe society with reduced crimes. I call upon the people of the Maldives to put national interest ahead of their political interests,” Waheed added.
President Waheed’s government was brought to power on February 7 last year following a controversial transfer of power later deemed legitimate by a Commonwealth-backed Commission of National Inquiry (CNI).
However, Dr Waheed’s predecessor, former President Mohamed Nasheed, has questioned the CNI’s findings, alleging that he was forced to resign from office under “duress”.
Concerns about the CNI’s conclusions were also raised last month by former Human Rights Minister Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed after she was dismissed by the present government back in November.
In his own New Year statement, former President Nasheed claimed that democracy had been “stolen” from the public by individuals looking to “further their narrow political ambitions”.
“We have seen a worrying return of police brutality and state-sanctioned violence and intimidation. With this we saw an increase in violent crimes including the tragic murder of Member of Parliament and Islamic scholar Dr Afrasheem Ali, fatal attacks on a journalist and members of public of whom some are children,” Nasheed alleged.
The former President claimed the country had been reported in the world’s newspapers for “all the wrong reasons” and that the Maldives is no longer the “successful Muslim democracy” it once was.
“Instead, the media has been full of stories about human rights abuses, coup d’etat and the government’s disastrous foreign policy decisions that forced out the largest foreign direct investor in the Maldives,” Nasheed added.
“I hope that this year, we will see a genuinely free and fair election, in which everyone is allowed to compete.”