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#Maldives: Ex-President backs down, calls for early elections in a move obstructing democratic reform

Male', Maldives
A day after he led violent protests which damaged property and harmed civilians and police, ex-President Nasheed made a u-turn and called for early presidential elections. Nasheed resigned as President on Tuesday February 7th, after weeks of public protest against his unlawful military arrest of a senior judge, obstruction of the Judiciary and violations of fundamental freedoms of individuals.

While he was in power Nasheed publicly stated that he would not even hold the constitutionally mandated 2013 elections until he could change the Judiciary in the way he wanted.

Speaking to supporters at rally of his militant party, Maldives Democratic Party (MDP), Nasheed called upon current President Waheed to immediately resign, and Speaker of Parliament Shahid to oversee an interim government and hold an election within two months.

He said that, even from the beginning, he and other party leaders had known that they could not complete a five year term in office. It was with this knowledge, Nasheed told his suppoerters, that they had promised, and planned for, a mid term election.

In 2008, during the second round of the presidential elections, Nasheed promised voters that he would hold mid-term elections, even though the Maldives Constitution does not provide for mid-term elections unless both the President and Vice President resign or are permanently incapacitated at the same time. Later after he was sworn in as President, Nasheed retracted on his election promise and blamed it on his then coalition partner, Dr. Hassan Saeed of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP). Last year, during the municipal council elections, Nasheed stated that these municipal elections were the mid-term elections he had promised.

Article 124 (b) of the Constitution allows that, amongst other things provided in the said article, in the event of the resignation or removal of both the President or the Vice President, and both offices becoming vacant at the same time, leading to an incapacity to carry out the duties of the President, until such time as a President and a Vice President shall be elected, the duties of both offices shall temporarily be carried out, in order of priority, by the Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by the Deputy Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by a member of the People’s Majlis elected by a resolution of the People’s Majlis, until successors in office are chosen.

Article 125 (a) also provides that, if any of the instances specified in Article 124 (b) of this Constitution occur and both the office of the President and the Vice President become vacant at the same time, a Presidential election shall be held within sixty days of both offices becoming vacant and appointments shall be made to both offices.

However, for Nasheed's scheme to success, two conditions have to be met. President Waheed must not appoint a Vice President, as he is mandated to do in Article 112, AND he must also resign as President. However, insiders close to President Waheed report that the President will announce his Vice President nominee and the rest of his cabinet on Saturday at the latest.

Since his resignation on Tuesday, Nasheed has changed his version of the events preceding his resignation several times and also changed his demands. A summary of the timeline of Nasheed's demands are as follows:
Mid-day Tuesday 7th. Nasheed gave a publicly televised address at mid-day which he stated that he was resigning for the good of the country.
Evening, Tuesday 7th. Nasheed's younger brother Nazim Sattar told foreign press his brother was forced to resign at gunpoint.
Morning, Wednesday 8th. Nasheed gives statements to international press saying 18 gun toting officers of the security forces forced him to sign a resignation letter. He said he would regain the presidency by contesting in 2013.
Mid-day, Wednesday 8th. Nasheed talks to other international press and calls President Waheed a traitor who had organized a coup because of his ambition. He called upon Dr. Waheed to immediately step aside and let him take back his "rightful" position.
Afternoon, Wednesday 8th. Nasheed tells MDP National Council that he was forced to resign at gunpoint and that he would not stop efforts to take the Presidency while there was one drop of blood in his body. He leads riots in Male' towards the Presidential Office, calling upon President Waheed to go vacate the office.
Evening, Wednesday 8th. Nasheed orders his supporters in his strongholds to set fire to police stations and courthouses. Over 19 police stations and courthouses are vandalized and torched, and vehicles burnt. Seven police officers are seriously ijured.
Morning, Thursday 9th. Nasheed retreats to his parents' residence, gives first statements to local press, alleging a coup by former President Gayoom, "Islamic fundamentalists", and President Waheed. He tells international press that he is under arrest, although the Government, police and courts denied it.
Evening, Thursday 9th. Nasheed tells his supporters he and the party leadership had always planned for a mid-term election, and that he was sure that the Speaker of Parliament would hold one within the next 2 months.

With the dust still settling around Maldives, after the attempted overthrow of President Waheed by Nasheed on February 8th, Maldivians are awaiting President Waheed's next actions. Popular support is against Nasheed at this juncture, as most do not want to see a repeat of the type of unconstitutional and violent street led rulership they had witnessed over the past three years. Popular talk in cafes and streets is in anticipation of a united partnership between all parties to implement the democratic reforms needed for a free and fair election in 2013.

Some of the points are raised in public feedback in popular radio and TV programs are the need for legislation for accountability of the Executive, legislation for an independent ad accountable Judiciary, legislation on the proper regulation and accountability of political parties, legislation on fundamental rights, free media regulations, anti-corruption legislation, strengthening of independent commissions, and the need for voter education in voter rights in a multi-party democracy. There is littel support for early elections, as most believe free and fair elections cannot be held without reforming the three powers of the state and empowering independent institutions.

Whether President Waheed can obtain the required support of political parties for such legislation and reforms still remains to be seen. Nasheed and his MDP's militant stand in opposition to Dr. Waheed's Presidency means that the path towrds restoring democracy in the Maldives will certainly not be smooth.

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