Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Hugo Swire has expressed concern that the Maldives international reputation and its economy could be damaged, in spite of the efforts of the country’s elections commission.
Members of the UK Parliament again called for a House of Commons debate on the current situation in the Maldives last week, with Conservative member John Glen taking aim at the administration of President Dr Mohamed Waheed.
“Last Saturday, presidential elections were once again postponed in the Maldives when President Waheed and his puppet interim Government of the previous elected President refused to step aside,” asked Salisbury MP Glen.
“Will the Deputy Leader of the House make time for a debate so that MPs on both sides of the House can voice their support for free and fair elections in that country?”
Glen’s request for a full debate on the delayed elections follow a similar request made by fellow-Conservative Robert Buckland the week before, who expressed his “concern that authorities are trying to obstruct the return to power of President Nasheed, who was ousted in a coup last year and who clearly won an election that was described by international observers as free and fair?”
Responding to the last week’s request, Deputy Leader of the House Tom Brake agreed that it was important for candidates to engage in a process that would ensure fair elections and a smooth transition of power.
“It is important that elections take place to a timing specified by the Maldives elections commission and in accordance with the Maldives constitution,” said Brake.
The third attempt to complete the presidential election has been scheduled for November 9, with the date for a potential second round on the 16. The constitutionally designated presidential term is set to expire on the 11th – a motion detailing transitional arrangements for the Majlis speaker to take the interim presidency were passed today (October 27).
Brake referred to the prior statement made by the UK’s Foreign Secretary William Hague who announced that he was “deeply dismayed” by the cancellation of the October 19 poll.
The Deputy Leader also pointed out that members would have the opportunity to question the Foreign Minister further during question time on Tuesday (October 29).
Meanwhile, Conservative MP Karen Lumley wrote to FCO minister Swire this week to ask him for his assessment on the Maldives
The secretary of state acknowledged that there was doubt as to whether the electoral process would be resumed.
“We are concerned that further delays could result in damage to Maldives international reputation and economy, despite the best efforts of the Maldives Elections Commission to get the process back on track,” said Swire.
“It is important that the Elections Commission, as an independent body, are given the space needed to make preparations for elections,” he continued, adding that he would be keeping a close eye on developments.
An early day motion introduced in the House of Commons earlier this month requested MPs to support calls for a free and “credible” vote, as well as condemning attempts to bar Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Mohamed Nasheed from competing in future elections.
A case filed in the Supreme Court to bar Nasheed’s candidacy has yet to be withdrawn, despite criticism from both sides of the political divide.
The FCO updated its travel advisory for the Maldives after growing unrest following the delaying of polls.
The guidance urged visitors to keep away from demonstrations: “There is no indication at present that any political unrest will affect tourist resorts or airports, but if you have any concerns you should check with your hotel or tour operator,” the statement read.
The United Kingdom remains one of the Maldives tourism industry’s biggest markets, although recent arrival figures show negative growth of a fall of -6.4% in UK arrivals this year when compared with 2012.