The palm trees rustle lightly in the afternoon breeze as tourists laze around on sun-drenched beaches. Could anywhere be more idyllic than the Maldives in the winter? Few of those tourists are likely to be aware of the political storm that’s brewing on the islands as a cabal of politicians and businessmen grow increasingly desperate in their bid to prevent presidential elections. Police stormed into the offices of the Maldives’ Election Commission on the morning of October 26, saying the voter list had not been approved by all of the presidential candidates and the election would have to be cancelled.
The candidates didn’t want to sign off on the voter list because they knew they would almost certainly lose to Mohamed Nasheed, a former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience who was ousted from the presidency by a violent mob last year.
In fact, Mr Nasheed has already won the election once: a first round was held in early September in which he took 45 per cent of the vote, way ahead of his closest challenger with 25 per cent. But the result was annulled on seemingly spurious grounds, as Mr Nasheed’s opponents suddenly decided they were not happy with the voter lists. This was in spite of the fact that domestic and international observers had given the poll a clean bill of health.