Presidential poll ′crucial′ to Maldives′ democracy | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 08.11.2013
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Presidential poll 'crucial' to Maldives' democracy

The Maldives is set to hold a presidential poll after the two previous attempts failed. South Asia expert Anand Kumar says the upcoming elections are a chance to avoid a prolonged political crisis in the island nation.

The Indian Ocean island state has been in political turmoil since February 2012, when Mohamed Nasheed was ousted as president in what some regard as a coup.

The nation's Supreme Court annulled results of a September 7 poll, arguing that the voter registry included made-up names and those of dead people. It ordered a revote, which police then stopped, saying officials had not complied with all the guidelines set out by the court in holding the election.

A third attempt at holding the election is set for Saturday, November 9. Maldives officials on Thursday moved up a possible presidential runoff to Sunday, one day after the election, in an attempt to avoid a potential constitutional crisis. In a DW interview, Anand Kumar, a Maldives expert at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, says the vote is crucial as it is designed to restore a genuinely elected democratic government.

DW: What are the roots of the current political turmoil in the Maldives?

Anand Kumar: The roots of the present crisis in the Maldives can be traced to the coup d'état that took place on February 7, 2012 and enabled the nation's old guard to assert itself. Several people loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom found positions in the new government, headed by President Mohammed Waheed Hassan. Since then, the Maldives has been facing continuous political turmoil.

Anand Kumar, South Asia expert and associate fellow at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. (Photo: Anand Kumar)

'The country might face a constitutional crisis if a president is not elected by November 11,' says Kumar

Why did the first attempts to hold presidential elections fail?

In the first round of the September 7 vote, former President Nasheed polled 45.5 percent of the votes. However this was not sufficient for an outright victory. Hence, a run-off was needed. After the first round Nasheed was supported by Thasmeen Ali, the leader of the DRP party. And when President Waheed chose to withdraw from the elections altogether upon seeing his poor performance, it became clear who was going to win. At this point, the opposition tried to use the courts to scuttle the electoral process.

How important is the upcoming presidential election?

The upcoming elections are crucial because they are set to restore a genuinely elected democratic government. After President Waheed polled just five percent of the votes in the 7 September elections it became very clear that he did not enjoy the support or the confidence of the people.

Who are the top candidates and what do they stand for?

They are Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen and Qasim Ibrahim from the Jumhooree Party. Nasheed is considered as liberal, Yameen is a half brother of Gayoom and Qasim Ibrahim is in alliance with the fundamentalist Adhalath Party.

What happens if none of the candidates receives more than 50 percent of the vote?

The country might face a constitutional crisis if a president is not elected by Monday. The constitution mandates that a president should be in place before the term of incumbent president expires on 11 November, 2013. This is why Maldives officials have moved up a potential runoff date to Sunday, one day after the election.

Maldives' former president Mohamed Nasheed gestures as he speaks to reporters in Male, Maldives, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013. (Photo: AP)

Ex-president Mohamed Nasheed, one of the top three candidates, was ousted from power in 2012

What consequences could such a crisis have?

A prolonged political crisis would prove disastrous for the country, which is already in an economic crisis. It might also damage the tourism industry which is the mainstay of Maldivian economy. The desire of second and third ranking candidates to come to power either by hook or crook is derailing the electoral process. They are using Maldivian institutions to derail the electoral process. The losing candidates should accept defeat with grace and honor people's choice.

Anand Kumar is a South Asia expert and associate fellow at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. His research focuses on the Maldives, Bangladesh, political and economic issues and regional cooperation.

The interview was conducted by Gabriel Domínguez

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