Challenger Wants Maldives' President to Resign After Cancellation of Revote

By Krishan Francis 21 October 2013

MALE, Maldives — The leading candidate in the Maldives’ troubled presidential election demanded on Sunday that the president resign and allow the parliamentary speaker to take over the government and oversee a fresh poll.

Speaking to reporters a day after police stopped officials from holding a scheduled revote of last month’s election, Mohamed Nasheed accused President Mohamed Waheed Hassan of working with the country’s defense minister and police chief to obstruct the vote.

The move by the police to stop Saturday’s revote came as the latest blow to this Indian Ocean island nation, which has seen much upheaval in its first five years as a democracy. Failing to elect a president by Nov. 11, when Hassan’s term ends, could bring about a constitutional crisis in the country.

The Supreme Court earlier this month annulled the results of the Sept. 7 election, agreeing with a losing candidate that the voters’ list had made-up names and names of dead people. Nasheed led that election with more than 45 percent of the vote, but failed to secure a majority for an outright win.

Nasheed said Sunday that he had lost all hope that an election will ever be held during Hassan’s tenure, accusing Hassan, Defense Minister Mohamed Nasim and Police Chief Abdulla Riyaz of wanting to stay in power without having a new vote.

“It is very evident that they have been obstructing the election and it is also very evident the game they are trying to play,” Nasheed told reporters, adding that Hassan, Nasim and Riyaz want to take Maldives into a “constitutional void” and stay in power for a long time.

“We believe that the only prudent way forward and a possible solution is for Dr. Waheed (Hassan) to resign and the speaker of Parliament to take over government until Nov. 11, for the election to be held under his tenure and not under the unelected … rule of Dr. Waheed,” Nasheed said.

Presidential spokesman Masood Imad denied Nasheed’s allegation, and said Hassan would not step down.

“I don’t think anybody in this country doesn’t want an election. The president more than anybody else wants to have an election,” Imad said.

Hassan said Saturday that he did not intend to stay in power even if no president was elected by the Nov. 11 constitutional deadline, even though the Supreme Court had ruled that it would allow such a provision. He opted out of the election after losing badly in the annulled first round, getting just 5 percent of the vote.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was “deeply concerned by the delay of the re-run” of the Sept. 7 election and called on all parties “to participate in a credible, peaceful and inclusive” revote as soon as possible.

“The aspirations and the will of the Maldivian people were expressed in the 88 per cent participation of eligible voters in the 7 September election,” the statement said. “The Secretary-General strongly believes that the legitimate will of the people should not be denied. “

Hassan stepped in Saturday to mediate in the crisis, proposing to the Elections Commission that a new vote be held Oct. 26. The commission, however, has not announced a date yet.

Nasheed’s supporters started civil disobedience protests Saturday, occupying main roads in the capital, Male, and on at least one other island to protest the cancellation of the revote.

Following the election last month, Nasheed was set for a runoff with the second-place finisher, a brother of the country’s longtime autocratic ruler, when the Supreme Court ordered the revote. The court also set forth 16 guidelines for the Elections Commission to follow during the new poll, including having the voters’ register approved by all candidates. Nasheed’s two rivals have refused to approve the register, citing flaws in the list.

The Maldives held its first multiparty election in 2008, with Nasheed defeating the country’s 30-year autocratic ruler, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Nasheed resigned last year after weeks of public protests against his order to arrest a senior judge he perceived as corrupt and partial. Hassan, who was Nasheed’s deputy, took over presidency. Nasheed has since accused Hassan of helping to orchestrate a coup.

A local commission has ruled out Nasheed’s claim of a coup, but the country, best known as a luxurious vacation destination, has since been politically polarized.