On Sunday, the president of the Maldives Mohamed Waheed announced that he is withdrawing his candidacy, and he would not run in new presidential elections planned for late October. In the first round (later annulled by the Supreme Court) Waheed scored only 5 % of the vote and has no chance of winning a new election. But the whole situation with the elections in the Maldives is developing in such a way that the country is in danger of being trapped in a power vacuum.
In the first round of the presidential election held on September 7, former President Mohamed Nasheed scored 45 % of the vote, far ahead of all his rivals, but failed to secure an absolute majority. The second round was scheduled for the end of September, but first the court put off the voting after an appeal filed by one of the losing candidates, and then in the beginning of October annulled the results altogether by the minimum margin (4 Judges vs. 3).
Now the country will face a new vote. While the first round is scheduled for October 20, there is no guarantee that this time also the losing candidates will not challenge the results of voting. This creates the risk that the country could be left without a legitimate authority : the authority of the current interim President Waheed, who came to power after a coup in February 2012, will expire on November 11, reminds Boris Volkhonsky, an expert of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies .
“In a situation of anarchy in the Maldives the internal and external aspects should be considered separately. On the one hand, the coup in February last year had purely internal reasons . The first democratically elected president, Mohamed Nasheed launched too aggressive a campaign to limit the political and economic influence of clans that had ruled the country unchallenged during 30 years of the reign of his predecessor, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom . And these clans, who made their fortune mainly on the boom of tourism industry, have a tremendous impact on all law enforcement agencies and government structures. And it was the army and the police that were the driving force behind the coup.”
There is reason to believe that the decision of the Supreme Court, which in fact had the aim to prevent Nasheed from getting democratically elected again, also reflects the position of those influential clans. However, analysts believe the decision may also have the opposite effect : it can increase the popularity of Nasheed, who now has a chance to win in the first round . But how the court will react in this situation, no one can predict today.
And so India has already expressed its concern over the situation . In a statement, the Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman expressed the hope that the transfer of power will take place smoothly in the period until November 11, as prescribed by the Constitution. Said Boris Volkhonsky :
“This statement reflects the second aspect of the situation, which goes far beyond the internal policy in the Maldives and relates to big politics in the Indian Ocean. The fact that India is the first to express concern about the situation is not just due to the close proximity of the two countries. Maldives in recent years at the center of a great geopolitical game that involves leading world and regional powers, especially the United States, India and China.”
Under President Gayoom, there was talk about the possibility of granting China one of the islands to create a base for submarines . When Gayoom was replaced by Nasheed who has a reputation of pursuing a pro-Indian policy, all these talks have come to naught . But after the revolution, they were resumed again . A visible manifestation of the new course of the interim president Waheed was the termination of the contract with an Indian company for modernization and management of the most important strategic asset in the Maldives – the Male International airport .”
And so, of course, India more than other countries is interested in the return to power of Mohamed Nasheed – the stakes are too high.