Former Maldives President Calls for Early Elections

Posted February 10th, 2012 at 9:05 am (UTC-5)
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Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed is calling for early elections and threatening street protests as a top United Nations official tries to broker a resolution to the political crisis that erupted Tuesday in the Indian Ocean nation.

Mr. Nasheed's call came after he attended Friday prayers in the capital, Male , under heavy security. He has mainly remained at his home, alleging he was forced from office Tuesday in a coup. He has vowed to remain in the country despite the fact that a warrant for his arrest has been issued.

Meanwhile, U.N. official Oscar Fernandez-Taranco is trying to arrange talks aimed at resolving the dispute between Mr. Nasheed and the new President Mohammed Waheed Hassan peacefully.

Fernandez-Taranco has called on “all political actors to remain calm and prevent any type of violence.”

An arrest warrant was issued Thursday for Mr. Nasheed, following violent clashes Wednesday between police and Mr. Nasheed's supporters in the capital and several outlying islands.

Mr. Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader, says he was forced from office in a coup and that he fears new President Mohammed Waheed Hassan was involved. He has urged the country's judiciary to investigate those responsible for his ouster.

President Hassan has denied those allegations. He said he was unprepared to take control of the country and would soon appoint a unity cabinet.

Mr. Nasheed told reporters Thursday he hopes the international community will respond quickly to the situation because he expects to be jailed soon. His wife and daughter have fled to Sri Lanka.

Mr. Nasheed resigned Tuesday after numerous calls by protesters and police officers for him to step down. His former deputy, Waheed Hassan, was sworn in as president hours later.

The resignation came after Mr. Nasheed ordered the arrest of a senior judge, sparking three weeks of protests.

In a New York Times opinion piece Thursday, Mr. Nasheed said the judiciary was hand-picked by then-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the archipelago for three decades. Mr. Nasheed said the judges provided protection for Mr. Gayoom and his allies, many of whom are accused of corruption, embezzlement and human rights crimes.

In Washington, the State Department said Thursday the top diplomat for South Asia, Robert Blake, spoke by phone with Mr. Nasheed and assured him that it was pressing the Maldivian authorities to protect his security. Blake is expected to arrive in the Maldives Saturday to meet with both Mr. Hassan and Mr. Nasheed.

The United States says it will work with the new government of Maldives, but believes all parties should agree on a way to clarify circumstances surrounding the transfer of power.