It was not a legal transfer of power, says Mohammed Nasheed; demands fresh elections

At the end of a day of hectic consultations and mediations, largely with help from India and the United Nations, there appeared to be no breakthrough in the Maldives, with former President Mohammed Nasheed demanding fresh elections.

Mr. Nasheed refused to hold talks with the “illegal” government headed by President Waheed Hassan. No violence was reported from anywhere in the Maldives. Police arrested scores of Maldivian Democratic Party men, apprehending trouble across the atolls that make up the archipelago.

As no common meeting ground emerged on how to resolve the crisis, the Indian team spent the latter half of the day discussing the issue with a host of other stakeholders. One source said some headway could be made on Saturday, once the Indian delegation completed its consultations with a broad spectrum of players.

The presence of Indian, U.N. and the United States delegations (expected to arrive on Saturday) is expected to accelerate the pace of finding a solution. All the three delegations are on the same page on the current crisis, and will also talk to one another. Only Great Britain is out of line with the remaining, and insists on an investigation into the circumstances of Mr. Nasheed's resignation. India and the U.S. have recognised the transition to a new administration, which Mr. Nasheed described as “unfortunate.”

Mr. Nasheed resigned on February 7, and claimed a day later that he was ousted in a coup. Dr. Waheed was sworn in the same day.

Indian suggestion

“The Indian government is suggesting that we find a peaceful path and amicable settlement. And we are all trying to work out an amicable settlement,” Mr. Nasheed said when asked about his meeting with the Indian envoy M. Ganapathi, who is Secretary (West) with the Ministry of External Affairs. But he was firm on fresh Presidential elections, he told Mr. Ganapathi. Mr. Nasheed told the U.N. delegation that anyone who went by the Maldivian Constitution would support his position.

His party, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), would go it alone in the elections, Mr. Nasheed said. He wanted the Speaker to act as the interim administrator for two months, by which time, the elections could be held. Mr. Nasheed insisted that he was not relying on the international community to do this. “We are relying upon the people of the Maldives to do this,” he said.

Dr. Waheed has been struggling to form a government. He does not have a single member in parliament from his party, no councillors, and those who had promised to join his Cabinet have not done so. But Abdulla Yameen, parliamentary party leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives, and former President Gayoom's half-brother, said the formation of a government and Cabinet took time. “After all of the Cabinet resigned when Nasheed was President, it took several days to form a Cabinet. Dr. Waheed is serious about including all parties and making it a unity government in its truest sense,” he told The Hindu.

Constitutional provisions

On Mr. Nasheed's demand for fresh elections, Mr. Yameen pointed out that the Constitution had no such provision. “The Constitution made it clear that if the President steps down or something happens to him in office, the Vice-President takes over. Nothing more,” he said.

Mr. Nasheed sees a constitutional transgression in forming a new government: “The government came into being as a result of a coup. It was not a legal transfer of power. Secondly, a coalition of opposition parties cannot deliver the election manifesto of the MDP. Remember, this government was formed because people gave votes on our manifesto. And even when the President is no longer there, the Vice-President is supposed to succeed. He is supposed to carry forward the policies of the President. The Vice-President is not supposed to find a new cabinet, not supposed to find new policies. He is only supposed to continue the existing policies and the existing government. He came into power illegally and he is continuing in power illegally.”

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