Thursday, December 13, 2007

Maldives opposition push for interim govt. ahead of polls

Five Maldivian opposition parties Tuesday urged President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to put in place an interim government ahead of the archipelago's first multi-party polls next year, officials said.

"We are urging the international community to support us, to support our cause for democratic reforms," former Maldivian foreign minister Ahmed Shaheed and spokesman for the five-party opposition alliance told reporters here.

The newly formed alliance, which includes main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the religious Adhaalath Party, the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP), Social Liberal Party and the New Maldives Group, plan to field a common candidate to contest in next year's presidential poll.

They accuse Gayoom, Asia's longest serving ruler since 1978, of being a dictator and leading the country to anarchy and mismanaging the economy of just under a billion dollars.

"Traditionally elections are rigged in the Maldives. This must stop," said Umar Naseer of IDP.

"The crime rate is rising, the jails are full of people, inflation is rising. We call on the international community to put maximum pressure on Gayoom, to accept our proposals," Nasser said in the presence of western diplomats.

Ex-Attorney General and presidential hopeful Hassan Saeed accused Gayoom of wastefulness and arrogance, and said he looked forward to the "task of rebuilding our nation" in the next government.

MDP chairman Mohamed Nasheed asked Gayoom "to stand down gracefully" and claimed the alliance controls nearly 98 percent support of Maldivian people.

The Maldivian government has so far declined to speak directly to the alliance and Legal Reform minister Mohamed Nasheed has dismissed the grouping as a "single issue three week alliance," which will dissolve once a transitional arrangement is worked out.

Home to 330,000 Sunni Muslims on 1,192 tiny coral islands scattered across the equator, Maldives has built South Asia's most successful economy based on luxury tourism, but the atoll nation is now facing religious tensions as it undergoes a difficult transition to democracy.

The tranquillity of the paradise holiday destination was shattered in September when Islamic radicals set off a home-made bomb, wounding 12 foreign tourists.

The attack was followed by a clash between troops and Taliban-style fundamentalists who want women to be totally covered, singing banned and no schooling for girls.

The government has hit back with restrictions to prevent militant Islam spreading in the moderate nation.

Source: LBO

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