Diplomat: Maldives leader agrees to early election

Feb 17, 2012, 2:09 AM

MALE, Maldives (AP) – The new president in the Maldives has softened his stance and agreed to hold early elections to break a political impasse after his predecessor resigned, an Indian diplomat said.

India’s Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters Thursday that President Mohammed Waheed Hassan agreed during talks with him to work on holding an election “as early as considered feasible by all concerned.”

Waheed has said since taking office last week that the election should be held according to schedule in October 2013. But changing that stance means a moral victory for former President Mohamed Nasheed, who has been calling for early elections since he resigned last week.

Nasheed had faced weeks of public protests and was losing support from security forces when he stepped down. He has since claimed he was ousted in a coup at gunpoint. The claim sparked demonstrations that were put down by the police in a violent crackdown. In far-off atolls of this Indian Ocean archipelago, Nasheed’s supporters burnt down police stations, court houses and government vehicles.

But Waheed has insisted the country cannot hold an election amid political acrimony and he wanted time to heal, a stand endorsed by the United States.

However, Mathai, who visited the Maldives, brokered a deal whereby a National Unity Government as proposed by Waheed would “work towards the conditions that will permit such elections to take place, including any constitutional amendments.”

It is unclear if Nasheed has accepted Waheed’s invitation to join the unity government. The government announced earlier Thursday that it is giving Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party four days to participate.

Waheed has been forming a Cabinet but has kept some ministerial posts open in case Nasheed’s party accepts the invitation.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Diplomat: Maldives leader agrees to early election