Police in the Maldives blocked re-scheduled presidential elections on Saturday, bringng further upheaval to the Indian Ocean nation.
Reuters reports that the Maldives
has been in turmoil since February 2012 when the then-president, Mohamed Nasheed, was ousted by mutinying police, military forces and armed demonstrators.
Just hours before polls were due to open for an election that Nasheed looked set to win, police surrounded the secretariat of the Elections Commission.
"The police are in control of this country. This is a coup," Reuters reports 33-year-old Ahmed Khalid, an artist at a protest staged by Nasheed supporters, as saying.
Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek told reporters, "We are very much concerned about what is going on in this country. The Supreme Court decision does not ask police officers to look into the voters' list and check what is there."
"They kind of think they can be our bosses and we are an institution below them, and that they can dictate to us and control us," Thowfeek said.
Police defended the officers' actions, saying that guidelines set by the Supreme Court hadn't been followed, because not all three of the presidential candidates had signed the voters' list. In the election, Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is facing two candidates connected to the former dictator, one from the Jumhooree Party and the other from the Progressive Party of Maldives, as the Independent reports:
The PPM’s candidate is Abdulla Yameen, the half-brother of the Maldives’ former dictator, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Meanwhile, the JP is headed by Gasim Ibrahim, a tourism and media tycoon who once served as Mr Gayoom’s finance minister.
The Independent continues:
What will happen next in the Maldives remains somewhat unclear. The Supreme Court had previously said an election must be held by November 11 when the term of current president Mohamed Waheed Hassan expires.
There have been widespread calls from the international community, along with activists’ groups, for the election to proceed.
“When Nasheed, me and three others sat on protest in 2007, we did not think one day there will be democracy in Maldives," The Hindu reports cartoonist and MDP supporter Ahmed Abbas as saying.
“We cannot be stopped,” Abbas said. “We will prevail. The people will win, regardless of however long the struggle takes.”