New election set in Maldives

Feb. 17, 2012 at 1:19 AM
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MALE, Maldives, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- The government in Maldives says it has agreed to fresh elections to resolve the crisis arising from the departure of President Mohamed Nasheed.

Nasheed -- the first democratically elected president of the strategically located Indian Ocean island nation of about 350,000 -- has said he was ousted in a Feb. 7 coup and his supporters have been demanding new elections. The new government has denied the allegations.

The elections will likely be held by year-end to pick a new president, and until then the government of President Waheed Hassan Manik will stay on under a deal brokered by neighbor India, The Hindu newspaper reported.

India has extensive contacts with Maldives and has been concerned about the latest developments there.

Until the elections, Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party will be a part of the new government, the report said.

Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, who had been conducting the negotiations with Maldivian parties in the capital Male, was quoted as saying he had stressed any solution should be a Maldivian-led process through constitutional means.

"The president has come out with a road map for an inclusive political process, which provides a very good basis for the parties to resolve their differences," he said, adding the government "will work toward the conditions that will permit such elections to take place, including any necessary constitutional amendments."

Prior to the negotiations, the Waheed government had said elections could not be held before the scheduled date of October 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported. However, the new road map said "in the interests of national reconciliation" the government would "hold discussions with all relevant parties to conduct elections at an early date," the newspaper said.

Presidential spokesman Masood Imad said he had been assured Nasheed "will have no problem with that."

The situation in Maldives, where tourism is the main industry, has drawn the interest of the United States and Britain because it sits on vital sea lanes, and because of concern about reports of radicalization among some of its predominantly Muslim population.

The Journal said the latest breakthrough seemed to be a diplomatic victory for India.

Nasheed's supporters had been upset that New Delhi did not give them enough support in the crisis.

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