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EU warns against autocratic drift in Maldives

  • Article by: KRISHAN FRANCIS
  • Associated Press
  • November 14, 2013 - 1:00 AM

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The European Union has warned that the Maldives may drift back to autocratic rule, saying it will consider "appropriate measures" if the country cannot elect a president in a rescheduled runoff vote Saturday.

In a declaration dated Wednesday, High Representative Catherine Ashton said any further delays or attempts to influence the outcome will be considered as moves made to prevent Maldivians from exercising their democratic rights.

Ashton said in a statement that "neither continuing uncertainty nor a drift towards autocratic rule would be acceptable to the E.U." which would consider appropriate measures should the vote "not bring the electoral process to a successful conclusion." She did not specify what measures.

The statement comes after President Mohamed Waheed Hassan extended his legal term in office by six days, purportedly to avoid a constitutional void after the country failed three times to elect a president before his term ended.

Maldives' first democratically elected president Mohamed Nasheed and the brother of a former longtime autocratic ruler Yaamin Abdul Gayoom qualified for the runoff after the first vote on Nov. 9. However, the Supreme Court intervened in the election for a second time and postponed a runoff scheduled for the next day.

Earlier in September it annulled the results of a first-round vote praised by local and international observers as largely free and fair, agreeing with a defeated candidate who complained that the voters register included made up names and those of dead people.

Police prevented a second attempt at holding an election after the annulment last month, saying officials had failed to obtain the approval of all candidates on a new voters' register as mandated by the Supreme Court.

Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago nation known for its luxurious island resorts, has faced much upheaval in the five years it has been a democracy. It institutions such as the courts, police and the bureaucracy have often worked in different directions and been accused of political bias.

Nasheed, who was elected president in 2008 defeating a 30-year autocratic rule by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, resigned midway through his term last year after weeks of public protests over his decision to arrest a senior judge. His resignation sparked violent protests.

A local inquiry commission dismissed his claim that he was ousted in a coup orchestrated by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and supported by Hassan.

© 2014 Star Tribune