Nasheed calls for Waheed to resign, transitional government to oversee elections under Speaker before Nov 11

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.


Waheed threatens candidates with resignation should they not agree to polls: The Hindu

Under siege by the international community for failing to hold the re-scheduled first round of Presidential polls on Saturday, Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed said that it was “in the interest of the country that an election was not forced” on it, in an interview with R. K. Radhakrishnan of The Hindu.

So did police overreach its mandate in holding the Elections Commission officials hostage early on Saturday morning? “Clearly the police also felt that they were also breaking the law if they went ahead. And we believe that in the greater interest of peace and security, it is important for us to have better consensus among the candidates and the institutions so that we can have a peaceful election,” he said.

Mr Waheed said he had stayed away from leading the poll process since he was candidate in the first round. “Until now I was in the backseat. Now, I feel I have to give more direction and help the process,” he said, and added that a new President will be elected and he will take office by November 11.

He would work to make the poll process free, fair and inclusive. He said that he would be able to convince all candidates to agree. If they did not, he said he would use the resignation card: “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 as President as per the Maldivian Constitution].”

Asked if he will stay on after November 11 in a scenario where the elections have not been held, he said: “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.”

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The speed of India’s abandonment of Nasheed is bewildering: The Hindu

The speed with which India abandoned Mohammed Nasheed and declared support for the successor government is bewildering, writes Jyoti Malhotra for The Hindu.

The speed with which the largest democracy in the world abandoned, by all accounts, the youngest democracy in the world has left several people terribly bewildered. Was this the result of an accumulated pragmatism that runs freely in the heart of New Delhi’s foreign policy establishment these days, especially as Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna is widely considered to be an absentee figure in this part of South Block?

Certainly, pragmatism has its benefits, and the art of foreign policy-making cannot be mixed with something as ephemeral as friendships, including with democrats. Certainly, too, the Prime Minister’s special envoy to the Maldives, M. Ganapathi, a top diplomat in the Foreign Office, has told Nasheed when he met him on Friday in Male, that Nasheed and his family will be safe under the new dispensation.

But as Nasheed pointed out to this reporter, on the phone from Male, this assurance is hardly enough. Meanwhile, in India and abroad, people are watching to see if India, the most powerful country in the region, can ensure that Waheed stops the savage crackdown that the Maldivian security forces are continuing to heap upon Nasheed’s hapless MDP supporters.

If all foreign policy is a function of national interest, then India must ask itself if the Waheed government is really an ideal partner in the Maldives, or if he is really a mukhauta or a mask of Gayoom. If Waheed is really Gayoom’s puppet — certainly, the new President has not one party member in Parliament, nor any councillors; he has been unable to form his own Cabinet, leave alone a government of national unity — then India should be more than worried.

But New Delhi has already decided that Waheed’s government is a legitimate one and that Nasheed’s crisis is largely one of his own making. Government sources say that Nasheed was repeatedly asked by High Commissioner Mulay, even a few hours before he resigned, whether he needed any assistance from India, and Nasheed said no.

On his part, Nasheed — on whom the realisation is beginning to dawn that his friend and partner, India, has dumped him — points out that he “resigned” because he wanted to avoid bloodshed, which would have been inevitable if he had decided to resist. Surrounded by security forces, Nasheed said, he could hardly have asked Mulay for protection.

As delegations from the U.S., the Commonwealth and the European Union set up camp in Male to figure a way out of the crisis, the world is looking to India to lead. It has all the credentials to do so — in fact, some parts of Lakshadweep even speak Dhivehi, the national language of the Maldives — especially if it believes that the Maldives is a part of its South Asian sphere of influence.

Whether or not Nasheed returns to a jail, this time under Waheed, the simple question remains: will India grasp the immensely fragile moment at hand, ensure that peace and stability return to the Maldives and that fresh elections are held, sooner than later?

If it does, it will be setting an example to the regime not only in Male or elsewhere in South Asia, but across the Asian arc littered with authoritarian rulers of all colours. If not, it could be making its second, strategic mistake in this Indian Ocean island. This time around, though, the error could take much longer to heal.

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