Former Maldives president wants incumbent president arrested

Male, Oct 20 (IANS) Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed called for the arrest of incumbent President Mohamed Waheed Sunday and appealed for greater assistance from the international community after the country's presidential election was disrupted.

He insisted there is no possibility of having a free and fair presidential election as long as President Waheed's government was in power and that control should be handed over to the speaker of parliament to oversee the election of a new head of state, Xinhua reported.

"Basically I'm calling for his (Waheed's) resignation and for him to face justice. I hope that the international community would understand this and I also do hope that the Maldives military and police understand what I am talking about. I'm still hoping that Waheed will gracefully resign today or tomorrow," Nasheed told reporters.

Following his resignation, Waheed should be arrested and tried for his involvement in ousting Nasheed, in what the former president says was a coup, and thwarting elections laid out in the Constitution, he said.

Nasheed won an impressive 45.45 percent of the vote during the first round of elections held Sep 7 while Waheed got only 5 percent.

However, the results were later annulled by the Supreme Court after third placed candidate tycoon Gasim Ibrahim alleged mass vote rigging despite international monitors saying polling was free and fair.

Waheed earlier this month bowed out of the elections and insisted he would oversee a peaceful transition of power but attempts to hold fresh polling hit a hurdle after police at the last minute withdrew logistical assistance to distribute ballot papers and boxes to 200 odd islands, effectively cancelling voting Saturday.

There are now just 14 days to go before a constitutionally mandated handover of power Nov 11 but a president is yet to be selected.

"What is happening in this country is very sad. It is very difficult to see how we will be able to overcome the challenges that we have but we refuse to give up hope and we would want to continue with our struggle and we will continue till we have a government that is elected by the people of the Maldives," Nasheed said.

He pledged to continue pushing for the election with the help of the people and international community and even went to the extent of asking for ballot boxes to be delivered by an outside party.

The US, UN and the Commonwealth have called for elections while India rushed its Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh to Male last week to have discussions with the candidates and President Waheed in the hope of putting an end to the political infighting.

"What more honorable request can a country make other than to facilitate a peaceful election? We are not asking to bomb someone. We are simply asking to look after the (ballot) boxes, let the people of the Maldives decide what they want. It is exactly why we are in the international family," Nasheed added, stressing that direct involvement should not be viewed negatively.

Meanwhile, the Elections Commission (EC) of Maldives planned to hold talks with the government and political parties Sunday to finalise the date of the presidential election that should have been held Saturday as planned earlier.

In a statement issued Saturday night, the EC pointed to the need for certain "political assurances" from political parties to make the presidential election possible, Xinhua reported.

The EC stated that all commission members believed that the election must be held as early as possible and they hoped to announce the election date Sunday after discussions with the government and political parties.

The Maldives president earlier urged the EC to hold the delayed presidential election Oct 26.

The Elections Commissioner called off the presidential polls just an hour ahead of voting Saturday morning citing technical wrangling over the electoral list by two candidates and lack of support from the police.

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