The president of the Maldives said he will stay in office even though his term ends at midnight Sunday in order to avert a constitutional void that could have arisen due to the postponement of a presidential runoff election.
President Mohamed Waheed Hassan said in a televised address to the Indian Ocean archipelago nation Sunday night that his intention was to oversee the runoff now scheduled for Nov. 16.
The first democratically elected president of the country and the brother of a former autocratic ruler have qualified for the runoff based on the results of Saturday’s election. However, the Supreme Court postponed the runoff scheduled for Sunday, the latest in a series of obstacles in electing a president.
Hassan’s decision has the potential to exacerbate an already volatile political situation in the fragile democracy.
After Hassan’s announcement, hundreds of supporters of former President Mohamed Nasheed poured into the streets to demand Hassan’s resignation, throwing stones and bottles at police.
Hassan’s decision to stay in office came despite the urging of a U.N. official that an interim government be established until an elected president could be sworn in.
Nasheed, who resigned as president last year, won nearly 47 percent of the vote in Saturday’s election, while Yaamin Abdul Gayoom, the brother of 30-year autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, trailed with 30 percent. A third candidate, businessman Qasim Ibrahim, had 23 percent.
A runoff between the top two candidates was required because no one received at least 50 percent of the vote. Some 240,000 people were eligible to vote in the predominantly Muslim nation, and about 86 percent voted.
The runoff was supposed to be held Sunday, but hours earlier the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a petition filed by a member of Ibrahim’s Jumhoory Party who asked for a postponement, arguing there was little time to campaign or forge alliances. The court set the runoff election for Nov. 16 as it was originally scheduled before it was moved up at Hassan’s request to avoid a constitutional crisis.
Gayoom told reporters late Saturday that he wanted a postponement of the runoff to sort out alleged discrepancies in the voters’ list. Nasheed had said the elections were fair.
The constitution requires that an elected president be in office when Hassan’s term ends. The Supreme Court on Saturday reiterated its previous ruling that Hassan will stay in office until a runoff is held if no clear winner emerged from the first round, ignoring the possibility of a political crisis.
Presidential spokesman Masood Imad said that Hassan “reluctantly” decided to stay in office because of the Supreme Court order. He and the ministers will not receive their pay for this period and limit their work to basic administration and not undertake new initiatives.
Hassan will not stay beyond Nov. 16 for any reason, Imad said.
Nasheed had demanded that Hassan resign before his term ends at midnight, which would enable the parliamentary speaker to be caretaker and oversee the runoff. The constitution provides for the speaker to take over powers if both the president and vice president vacate their positions.(washingtonpost)