MALE Oct 20 The frontrunner in the Maldives
presidential elections called for the current leader to resign
on Sunday, a day after the vote was halted by police.
Former president Mohamed Nasheed, who was ousted by police,
military forces and armed demonstrators in February 2012, looked
set to win back the presidency on Saturday after another vote in
September was annulled over allegations of fraud.
However, some candidates had still not signed a new voter
register and hours before the polls were due to open police
surrounded the Elections Commission forcing a delay that was
condemned by the international community.
The Indian Ocean archipelago has seen months of violence and
political unrest since Nasheed was forced out and may face a
constitutional crisis if it is unable to elect a president by
Nov. 11 when current President Mohamed Waheed's term ends.
Waheed, who was Nasheed's vice president and took power when
he was ousted, has proposed another vote on Nov. 2 and says he
will stay in power until his term finishes to make sure the
elections are fair.
It is not clear who will be in charge of the country's
day-to-day actions if no leader is elected.
Nasheed, the Maldives' first democratically elected
president in 2008, said it was impossible to have an election
with Waheed as president, Mohamed Nazim as Defence Minister, and
Abdulla Riyaz as the Commissioner of Police.
"We believe that the only prudent way forward, and possible
solution for the situation, is for Waheed to resign today and
the Speaker of Parliament to take over government until November
11, or before the election," Nasheed told reporters on Sunday.
"It has become very evident that they've obstructed these
polls, and very evident that the game they are trying to play,
to take this country into and unconstitutional void, and then
capture long term, unelected military power."
Imad Masood, a presidential spokesman said Waheed will stay
on in the office during his term and "do everything to workout a
mutually acceptable compromise" to hold free and fair elections.
Masood said a tentative date of Nov. 2 has been agreed with
Nasheed's two rivals to hold the polls.
Nasheed's main election rival is Abdulla Yameen, a
half-brother of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled for 30 years and
was considered a dictator by opponents and rights groups.
Holiday resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, who was finance minister
under Gayoom, was also running.
Nasheed looked set to return to office when he won the first
round of an election on Sept. 7, putting him in a good position
to win a run-off vote set for Sept. 28.
But that election was cancelled by the Supreme Court which
cited fraud. International observers had said the election was
free and fair. The court later ordered a fresh election by Oct.
20 and a run-off by Nov 3, if required.
Police said on Saturday they could not support an election
held "in contravention of the Supreme Court verdict and
guidelines". Police Chief Superintendent Abdulla Nawaz said he
had acted due to concern about "any unrest that may occur in the
country as a result of letting the election proceed".
Nasheed has called for blocking of all streets in Male and
bring the densely-populated island and the capital of the
archipelago to a standstill after the delay in the polls.
His supporters have started sit-in protests in the two main
junctions on Saturday blocking other streets with ropes, human
chains, motorbikes and trucks forcing security forces to
cordoned off part of Male that included the president's office
and the Supreme Court.
Nasheed's supporters have staged protests since he was
ousted, and masked men this month fire-bombed a television
station that backs Nasheed, who came to international prominence
in 2009 after holding a cabinet meeting underwater in scuba gear
to highlight the threat of climate change.
Issues the new president will face include a rise in
Islamist ideology, human rights abuses and a lack of investor
confidence after Waheed's government cancelled the biggest
foreign investment project, with India's GMR Infrastructure
(Additional reporting by Ranga Sirilal in Colombo; Writing by
Shihar Aneez; editing by Anna Willard)