The political deadlock in Maldives continued on Thursday with the opposition demanding President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation followed by a fresh election to tide over the clash between the executive and legislature.
Two opposition leaders arrested Wednesday on corruption charges have been put under house arrest. The opposition did not rule out more arrests and crackdowns.
While there was no report of any violence, Male for one remained deeply polarized between the government and its opponents; former President and dictator, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, continues to have support among the elite and business class in the city of around 1.2 lakh residents.
Known for its white, sandy beaches, secluded holiday islands and lately for its fight against global warming, this 20-month old democracy has been stuck in a political stalemate since Tuesday. That was when its 13-member cabinet resigned en masse saying legislations were being blocked by the opposition-controlled 77-member Parliament.
Nasheed, it was learnt, is currently running the administration with junior ministers and bureaucrats and there’s no word yet about renaming the cabinet.
The opposition had planned to bring a no-confidence motion against the education minister on Wednesday, but the cabinet resignation pre-empted the move.
"The only solution is for President Nasheed to resign and go for fresh elections to see how popular his government is," Umar Naseer, deputy leader of the main opposition Dhivehi Raithunge Party (DRP), told Associated Press.
"We don’t want any violence. That is why we have not held any rally in (capital) Male,’’ DRP media coordinator Ali Solih told Hindustan Times.
Solih claimed that the government was harassing the opposition by keeping under house arrest two of leaders of smaller parties: Gayoom’s half-brother, Abdullah Yameen Abdul Gayoom, and Qasim Ibrahim, probably the richest individual businessman in Maldives.
Both have denied the charges of bribing – or giving cash for votes to – other MPs to vote against government-initiated legislations.
"Investigations are continuing. The government is trying its best to resolve the crisis. But the opposition has vested interest for delaying or stalling government’s reform measures like tax reforms," Mohamed Zuhair, spokesperson at Nasheed’s office told HT.
Zuhair said the opposition wanted to force the government to withdraw social protection measures like subsidies to single mothers and disabled persons to make Nasheed more unpopular.
Nasheed was elected in October 2008 for a five-year term while the majlis (parliament) was elected at separate election in May 2009, also for a five-year term.
Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has 28 MPs and the support of four independent MPs in the 77-member Parliament.