Maldives president agrees to early elections

Mohamed Waheed says he will hold discussions with all parties with a view to organising elections as soon as possible.

    Maldives president agrees to early elections
    Supporters of former President Nasheed have been protesting against what they deem a 'coup' [Reuters]

    Mohamed Waheed, the new president of the Maldives, has agreed to hold early elections to break a political impasse with his predecessor, who says he was forced to resign in a coup.

    "The government will hold discussions with political parties to hold elections at an early date," Waheed's spokesman Imad Masoud said in the capital Male on Thursday.

    "The government will work towards creating conditions that will permit such early elections to take place," he told the AFP news agency. "If necessary, the government will consider any constitutional amends that need to be made."

    Waheed, who took office last week after Mohamed Nasheed's resignation, had earlier vowed to form a national unity government and hold elections according to schedule in October 2013.

    The agreement on early polls was welcomed by Nasheed, who has refused to accept the new administration and repeatedly called for elections to be held as soon as possible.

    But he would press ahead with a rally of supporters on Friday, his party said.

    "It will be a peaceful one, a show of strength that we have the backing of the people to press for the rebel Waheed government to resign and call for early elections," Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) spokesman Hamid Abdul Gafoor told AFP.

    Nasheed faced weeks of public protests over high prices and calls for more religiously conservative policies in the state of 330,000 Sunni Muslims prior to stepping down.

    The claim sparked demonstrations that were put down by the police in a violent crackdown. Nasheed's supporters burnt down police stations, court houses and government vehicles.

    Waheed has been forming a cabinet but has kept some ministerial posts open in case Nasheed's MDP choses to join. The government announced on Thursday that it was giving the party four days to accept Waheed's invitation.

    The agreement to hold early polls was brokered by Ranjan Mathai, India's foreign secretary, who is visiting Male in a bid to resolve the crisis.

    A nine-member Commonwealth ministerial mission is also due in the Maldives on Friday on a fact-finding mission to study the events surrounding Nasheed's resignation and the transfer of power.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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