EU warns against autocratic drift in the Maldives

After three failed presidential elections democracy in the Maldives is in danger, European Union's High Representative Catherine Ashton says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 November, 2013, 4:22pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 November, 2013, 5:08pm

The European Union on Thursday promised “appropriate measures” if the Maldives once again scuttled presidential elections due this weekend and warned the honeymoon destination not to become “autocratic”.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the bloc would regard any bid to further delay or influence the outcome of the run-off election scheduled for Saturday as intended to prevent the people of the Maldives from exercising their democratic right to choose a leader.

“The EU underlines that neither continuing uncertainty nor a drift towards autocratic rule would be acceptable to the EU and that it is therefore ready to consider appropriate measures should the poll on Saturday not bring the electoral process to a successful conclusion,” she said in a statement.

The Maldives was set to hold a run-off presidential vote last Sunday, a day after former president Mohamed Nasheed emerged the winner in the first round held the day before, but without an outright majority.

The country’s controversial Supreme Court blocked the planned run-off in the third such blocking of a presidential vote since annulling the first round held on September 7.

On Wednesday, the Commonwealth expelled the Maldives from its disciplinary panel, which has begun investigating the political chaos in the Indian Ocean atoll nation after repeated court interventions to prevent elections.

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which can recommend the expulsion of countries from the 53-member bloc, ejected the Maldives during a meeting in the Sri Lankan capital.

The country faces a constitutional crisis after three presidential elections were cancelled, with Western and Indian diplomats increasingly vocal in their criticism of the regime of incumbent caretaker Mohamed Waheed.

“Ministers will continue to monitor the situation in Maldives closely over the coming days,” the Commonwealth said in a statement.

“The chair of CMAG will brief Commonwealth heads of government on Friday, when they meet in Colombo.”

Nasheed was the country’s first freely-elected president but he resigned in February last year following a mutiny by security forces that he denounced as a coup engineered by Waheed and former autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The Maldives, an upmarket tourist destination famed for its coral-fringed islands, held its first multi-party elections in 2008 after 30 years of control by Gayoom.

Commonwealth leaders are gathering in Sri Lanka ahead of a three-day summit starting on Friday.