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#Maldives: Nasheed supporters hijack parliament, wreck private property

Male', Maldives
Once again, the Maldives has been hijacked by the militant supporters of Mohamed Nasheed, who resigned from his post as President on February 7th. Maldivians watched in dismay this morning as Members of Parliement who support Nasheed ripped down the national flag and removed the chair of the Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid. Maldivians have been waiting for over three hours to listen to their President's State of the Nation Address at the opening session of Parliament. Nasheed's MPs continue to occupy the Speaker's Chair and block the entrances to Parliament Chambers, in their attempt to obstruct President Mohamed Waheed from delivering his address. President Waheed arrived at Parliament on schedule at 10 am and is awaiting in the Speaker's Chambers for the opportunity to address the nation.

Outside the Parliament, Nasheed's Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) have attacked police lines, injuring four officers seriously. Media reports that 18 individuals have been arrested in conjunction with the attacks on police, one of them reportedly being Nasheed's younger brother Nazim. The protests are led by Nasheed's immediate family, supported by political appointees of the fallen government and their families. Protestors are reported to have damaged vehicles and businesses owned by supporters of the National Unity Government led by President Waheed.

Police, assisted by the security forces, are appealing to the gathered crowd to stop violent activities, to lay down their weapons and to observe the norms of a peaceful protest.

In a bid to show strength on tyhe ground, Nasheed has been financing supporters from his stronghold islands to travel to Male' for the protests today. Three vessel loads are reported to have arrived from the South last night. On Male', clubs report that Nasheed has begun the successful campain strategy of paying clubs money in return for bringing out people to take part in the protests. MDP sources report that clubs Victory (run by Nasheed's family), Maziya and Eagles are the core clubs involved. They report that the latter two received payoffs for participation in each MDP Protest.

However, analysts estimate that in total, counting all four locations at which MDP is protesting today, MDP support has not built much over the 25% he earned in the 2008 elections, first round.

MDP's obstruction of Parliament is seen by opposition MPs as a ploy to derail the All Party Talks initiated by President Waheed to reach agreement on a Road map for Reform. Nasheed, who initially refused to take part in the talks, was ultimately forced to send his cousin by marriage, Ibrahim Salih, to the talks, due to international pressure. Mediator of the talks, Ahmed Mujuthaba, told press that a 7 point agenda had been agreed for discussion, but the the discussion had been derailed by MDP refusal to discuss anything that a date for elections.

One item on the agenda was the peaceful opening of Parliament, while another was agreement of new legislation and amendment of old legislation in order to hold snap elections as demanded by MDP. MDP's obstruction of parliament lends credence to speculation that MDP is attempting to force President Waheed to resign, thereby facilitating the way for yet another election. However, as one opposition politician pointed out in a media interview today, MDP may not benefit from a snap election.

"The sum total of support for MDP is seen on the streets today," he said. "These numbers will not win Nasheed any election".

Sources from inside MDP report that the MDP top leadership and middle ranks are dissatisfied by the corrupt way Nasheed ran the MDP coalition government and lost public support through his constitutional violations such as the military arrest of a senior judge of the Criminal court. Some senior leaders have spoken out publicly against MDP's undemocratic actions during this period, and Nasheed's use of MDP as his own street gang, instead of as a mature political party. However, Nasheed still has significant support in central Male', through his family's links to the famous football club, Victory Sports Club. Since his resignation, MDP has awarded him the honorific title of MDP's Supreme Leader. Nasheed was also the only candidate who proposed his name for the MDP presidential primaries, an outcome decried as undemocratic by the general populace.

In a country which was left with a huge national debt by the Nasheed Government, ongoing protests by MDP are taking a heavy toll on the country's tourism sector and foreign investment.

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