Maldives' ex-leader Mohamed Nasheed protests at poll's suspension

Former leader Mohamed Nasheed attacks order to delay run-off election he was expected to win, leading to fears of unrest in honeymoon islands

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 2:42am


The Maldives' former leader has called for nationwide protests after an election he was expected to win this weekend was suspended by the Supreme Court.

Mohamed Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) asked supporters to join peaceful demonstrations, threatening unrest in the honeymoon islands.

Nasheed won the first round of voting on September 7 and faced a run-off vote on Saturday against Abdullah Yameen, the half-brother of the archipelago's former autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Nasheed, 46, said in an e-mail: "I have been fortunate enough to get the support of 45 per cent of the people in the first round of the presidential elections. The dictatorship cannot digest this and have used their cronies through their kangaroo courts to delay their ultimate defeat." His opponent in the second round, Yameen, has said there was "nothing unconstitutional" about the Supreme Court's order.

But MDP spokesman Hamed Abdul Ghafoor said the court ruling had led to "immense instability and has the potential to trigger violence".

The Supreme Court ordered the second round of voting to be delayed while it examined a complaint of alleged electoral fraud.

The polls were seen as a test for the Maldives 18 months after the violent removal of Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected president.

Nasheed resigned in February last year after a mutiny by police which he described as a coup orchestrated by Gayoom, who had ruled the islands for three decades. Gayoom denied any involvement.

Nasheed told a party meeting in the capital, Male, on Monday he expected Elections Commissioner Fuad Thaufeeq to ignore the Supreme Court and go ahead with the vote on Saturday.

"I request the security services to assist the Elections Commissioner in holding elections this Saturday," Nasheed said.

"To Maldivians, I say, don't be disheartened. What the people will, will take place. We knew when we began this that it would not be a short journey, nor a small undertaking."

Shortly after the MDP meeting, sporadic small protests erupted across the capital island, with police using pepper spray to disperse crowds. Local and international observer groups found the first round of voting to be free and fair, but the third-placed Jumhooree Party filed the legal challenge that now forms the basis of the court's ruling.

The court ordered the government to postpone the elections until the court "decides in the case before it".

The Jumhooree Party, which fielded as its candidate tourist resort owner Qasim Ibrahim, sought an annulment of the result of the first round of voting, claiming that the voter registry contained the names of dead or imaginary people.

Last year's violent power change, which saw Nasheed replaced by his deputy Mohamed Waheed, hurt the tourist industry and left a bitter legacy of distrust.

Nasheed has railed against the country's judiciary, which he sees as biased and intent on protecting the interests of Gayoom and a handful of tycoons.

Additional reporting by Associated Press