MALE, Maldives – Maldivian opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed Sunday demanded fresh elections under a caretaker president, a day after police forced the postponement of a vote he was expected to win.
Nasheed, a former president, told reporters in the capital island Male that the outgoing President Mohamed Waheed should step down immediately and allow the national Speaker to conduct a fresh presidential vote.
“We believe that the only prudent way forward and the solution is for Waheed to resign and the Speaker of Parliament to take over the government until elections are over,” Nasheed said.
He accused the incumbent of letting the police block Saturday’s vote to try to push the country into a constitutional crisis before seizing power.
“It has become very evident that they (Waheed and police) have obstructed these elections, and very evident that the game they are trying to play,” Nasheed said.
“It is to take this country into a constitutional void and then capture power.”
The constitution requires that a new president be in office by November 11, but the independent Elections Commission (EC) has said it would be difficult to meet that deadline.
The current president was Nasheed’s deputy when Nasheed was forced to resign following a mutiny by police in February last year. Nasheed later accused Waheed of being involved in a coup to topple him and take power.
On Sunday Nasheed said free and fair elections would be impossible under Waheed.
He said that while the current president may set an election date, he would not allow a vote to take place.
Earlier in the day the opposition leader urged supporters at a rally in Male to continue their campaign for elections in a country which only adopted multi-party democracy five years ago.
“I will not stop, I will remain steadfast,” he told the gathering in the early hours.
Police stopped the elections commission from holding Saturday’s presidential vote on the grounds it was “illegal,” a move that triggered international concern.
Nasheed had been widely expected to win after securing more than 45 percent of the vote in a now-annulled September 7 election.
The Supreme Court scrapped the September vote and called fresh elections after upholding a petition from a third-placed candidate alleging voter list irregularities, even though international observers had said the poll was credible, free and fair.
After police blocked election authorities from going ahead with the re-run on Saturday, hundreds of Nasheed loyalists took to the streets to denounce the authorities.
“Be angry,” Nasheed told his supporters.
“Do not be disheartened. Melancholy lowers your spirits. Anger makes you determined, makes you act. We should be angry at this moment.”
But Nasheed also made it clear that he would not support any violent protests. By Sunday morning the crowds had dispersed and streets appeared calm.
Police say Saturday’s election would have violated a Supreme Court order requiring all candidates to approve electoral lists in advance.
Elections chief Fuwad Thowfeek, speaking on national television Saturday night, said he would normally need three weeks to organize another election.
However, he said he would try to hold one by November 2 or 9, just before the November 11 deadline set by the constitution.
Waheed has suggested the poll take place next weekend.
Regional power India in a strongly worded statement expressed deep disappointment at the cancellation of an election that had international support.
“India and the international community have been closely watching the developments in Maldives and are seriously concerned at the attempts to stall the democratic process,” its foreign ministry said in a statement.
It demanded that Maldivian authorities ensure a fresh election is held without delay