Former President and Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Mohamed Nasheed has said his priority if elected would be to bring to justice the “perpetrators” of the February 7, 2012 “coup”.

“I do believe that the perpetrators of the coup must be brought to justice. At the same time institutions need to be strengthened,” he said to a question here.

Mr. Nasheed resigned in controversial circumstances on February 7, 2012, leading to his Vice-President, Mohamed Waheed Hasan, being sworn in President as mandated by the Constitution. A day later, Mr. Nasheed insisted he was ousted in a coup. He and the MDP have since accused Dr. Waheed and other prominent Maldivians, including former dictator Maumoon Gayoom, of engineering the coup.

He said the mistakes he made when he first came to power in 2008 would not be repeated.

“Many had told me that one of the flaws [when we came to power in 2008] was that we did not prosecute the former dictatorship and we let them be. In my view they were the opposition, and to arrest the opposition was perhaps not the best thing to do. And therefore we did not do it. I do not think we are going to do it again,” he said.

Maldivians vote to elect a President on September 7. If no candidate secures more than 50 per cent of the vote, a run-off between two candidates who polled the highest votes will be held on September 28. Results will be declared a week later. The new President will be sworn in on November 11.

India vs. China

On foreign policy, Mr. Nasheed said his government “will find a friend, be good to a friend and don’t play one friend against any another.”

Asked if he was referring to Dr. Waheed’s foreign policy, he said: “Certainly. They tried to play India against China, and China against the United States. They thought they were very clever doing this. They think that by such an amazing juggling act, they would remain in a better balance”.

Asked if he would request GMR, which operated the Male international airport, to come back, he said: “We have always been saying that the contract has to be reinstated. Of course it has to go through procedures.”

Mr. Nasheed, who has been on the road for the past 18 months since he resigned, said he had a “good sense of what the people are asking for. We are very, very confident that we will be able to win these elections [in a single round]”.

“We are also confident that the Elections Commission, left alone, will be able to deliver a free and fair election. We are also apprehensive that elements within the police and military might intervene in the eleventh hour, during voting, or during counting,” he said.

Refusing to look at any party for an alliance, he said the MDP was gaining “over-whelming support from the people” because it had not aligned itself with “any ideology, or group or vested interest...It [alliances] did not work when we came to power in 2008”.

Cartels

“Most of these alliances are cartels of vested interest. They don’t necessarily have a resonance or a following. So the alliances are just, in many senses, among bosses. I don’t think that is what the people of Maldives are looking for.”

On the growing influence of radical Islamist groups, he said the Islamic Adaalath Party had “discredited” itself “by taking sides with the coup government”.

It had disintegrated into a very small core and was not going to make a show in the elections, said.the former President.

“Religion is very fortunately not an election issue...I would like to stick to election issues,” he added.