Nasheed backs off from demand on polls

In the face of mounting pressure from the international community and from some friends, it appears that the former President, Mohamed Nasheed, has backed off from his non-negotiable demand of holding early elections.

Mr. Nasheed's main demand — that presidential elections have to be held — has found no acceptance with the new government, opposition parties, civil society or the international community that matters here. Because of the impasse that this has led to, India was in favour of more discussions.

While India does not have a definitive view, officials pointed out that according to Article 124 of the Constitution, elections will have to be held in November 2013. “Right now the emphasis is to help them come up with a working government that is broadly acceptable to all parties,” the official added.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for south and central Asia Robert O' Blake said after his consultations, he came to the conclusion that early elections would not be possible. “Members of civil society told me that the country is not ready for early elections because the police, the Election Commission and judiciary, are not sufficiently prepared to ensure free and fair elections,” he said to a question.

“The United States hopes that the broadest coalition possible can be formed and that would have a majority in Parliament. This coalition should then work with all parties to reform and improve the capacity of the judiciary, the police and election commission to ensure that elections can be held in an orderly and peaceful manner,” he added.

Mr. Blake said no one believed that elections could be prepared right now because of the shortcomings. “Perhaps, elections much later in the year could be announced. Again, that is something for all parties themselves to think about it,” he added.

Both India and the U.S. expressed the hope that the party that Mr. Nasheed belongs to would form the new government of national unity. “I can tell you that a number of good ideas are now being explored to try to find ways to bring the MDP into this national unity government,” said Mr. Blake. “But it is upto the parties themselves to decide…I think in a situation like this, if you want to form national unity government that has the participation of all parties, including the MDP, I think everybody has to compromise. And, from what I heard, there is a spirit of willingness in elements of all parties to find that compromise,” he added.

Indian concerns

India was more concerned about the precarious economic situation of the islands, and its lack of progress in building suitable institutions of democracy.

“If there is chaos and no government, even if people are suffering, there is no one we can channel aid or any other support,” he said. This is the most important issue today.

The economy has been on a freefall of late, and dollar has become a scarce commodity. Overseas workers have been told that there would not be able to repatriate more than $1000 a month. Maldives has also imposed a Goods and Services Tax and a profit tax recently to shore up sagging revenue.

The other Indian concern was the state of the institutions — mainly the judiciary and the police.

“They need time to work on reforms in these two crucial areas. Otherwise the same story, as it happened now, will keep repeating all over with greater frequency,' he added.


  • India prefers more discussions on the issue

  • Focus now on forming a government