Maldives election chaos fuels ‘banana republic’ fears: AFP

“The Maldives embraced multi-party democracy in 2008 hoping to emerge a modern nation. Five years on, there are fears the honeymoon islands are becoming a ‘banana republic’ ready to implode,” writes the AFP.

“The political crisis came to a head Saturday when police blocked elections designed to restore stability after the first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Nasheed, was toppled 20 months ago.

But observers say there should be no surprise at the turmoil as key institutions are still run by followers of the country’s long-time dictator who never accepted Nasheed’s 2008 victory.

‘After a long tradition of one-party rule, the Maldives is now fast becoming a banana republic,’ said regional defence analyst Iqbal Athas.

‘My real fear is that all this political unrest can turn into violent chaos,’ added Athas, associate editor of the Colombo-based Sunday Times.

Athas said instability could have consequences for regional security because of the huge Indian Ocean trade.

The 1,192 tiny coral islands of the Maldives may be home to only 350,000 mainly Sunni Muslims.

But scattered some 850 kilometres (530 miles) across the equator, they are an important location along east-west sea trade.

Pro-Western Nasheed, a former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, was forced to resign following a mutiny by police who are still thought to be loyal to former autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, 75.

It was the same police force that prevented the independent Elections Commission from going ahead with Saturday’s presidential poll, which Nasheed, 46, was widely expected to win.

Given that Nasheed was widely forecast to win an outright majority in Saturday’s vote, its scuttling came as no surprise with the Supreme Court having also played its role.

Nasheed’s main challenger, Gayoom’s half-brother Abdullah Yameen, was a distant second to Nasheed in a the first round of voting held on September 7.

But the result was annulled by the Supreme Court last month following allegations of irregularities in voter lists, although foreign monitors gave the polls a clean chit.

By stipulating that all candidates had to approve the voter lists, the court effectively gave Nasheed’s challengers carte blanche to block a vote they were sure to lose.”

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