Those who have seen the Independent Lens documentary The Island President, by Jon Shenk, about the deposed former president of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed and his work fighting climate change, will likely be distressed about the latest news. As reported by The New York Times and other sources, police in the Maldives blocked a rescheduled presidential election on Saturday, setting the stage for a potential constitutional crisis if there is no replacement for the current president when his term runs out in November.
More from the island nation’s independent news source Minivan News: the Maldives police surrounded the country’s Elections Commission headquarters “with orders from Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz to take over the building and confiscate ballot papers should it proceed.”
Then, a follow up was posted on the film’s Facebook page, a message from former Maldives First Lady Laila Ali:
since the coup we have been under a military/police state with a pretense of democracy. And no one seems ready or able to help us restore democracy in a meaningful way. A sad sad day for democracy…The American government, along with India and others, have been issuing supportive messages about “free, fair and inclusive elections,” “peaceful transfer of power on 11 November,” etc., but seem unable to force this coup government to actually do it.
A day later, Minivan News reported that people gathered on Majeedhee Magu — Malé’s (the capital city) main thoroughfare. “After laying down tarpaulins, peaceful protesters have set up tables and chairs in the middle of the street. Thousands strong, the crowd is said to be growing by the minute and is obstructing nearly every junction on the main road of Majeedhee Magu.” There’s more from The New York Times:
Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, a spokesman for Mr. Nasheed’s party, said constituencies within the police, judiciary and security forces remained sympathetic to the country’s former autocratic leader, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Mr. Ghafoor said those groups had worked together to hamper a democratic transition.
“There is a mandate developing for the international community to intervene and restrain these undemocratic forces,” Mr. Ghafoor said. “We are in no man’s land right now.”
Late Saturday, President Mohamed Waheed Hassan proposed that the new vote be held next Saturday.
In a statement by Mohamed Nasheed forwarded to us, he makes a plea for help:
The people of the Maldives have the capacity to show what they want out of their country. The people have shown that they do not want Dr. Waheed.
We want more robust international engagement in making sure these important transitional arrangements are made. We don’t think we ourselves can overcome the situation.
I don’t think asking for a secure elections is asking for an invasion or the meddling with the internal affairs of a country. We are simply asking to maintain the logistics of an election.
We asked the international community to assist in transporting the ballot boxes and safeguarding them.