Maldives police forced a halt to a presidential election on Saturday, in what the leading candidate’s supporters said was a new coup as he called on them to block the streets in protest. The Indian Ocean archipelago which has been in turmoil since February 2012, when then-president Mohamed Nasheed was ousted by mutinying police, military forces and armed demonstrators. The election was due to be held on Saturday, after a vote in September was annulled over allegations of fraud. However, there had been confusion over whether it could go ahead as some candidates had still not signed a new voter register in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling early on Saturday to allow the election. Just hours before polls were due to open for the vote that Nasheed looked set to win, police surrounded the secretariat of the Elections Commission, forcing a delay condemned by the international community. Police said they could not support an election held “in contravention of the Supreme Court verdict and guidelines”.
Police Chief Superintendent Abdulla Nawaz said he had acted due to concern about “any unrest that may occur in the country as a result of letting the election proceed”.
Nasheed’s supporters have staged violent protests since he was ousted, and masked men this month fire-bombed a television station that backs Nasheed, who came to international prominence in 2009 after holding a cabinet meeting underwater in scuba gear to highlight the threat of climate change.
“There has been a coup in the Maldives, and the coup backers, in order to maintain that coup, are committing bigger and bigger atrocities day after day,” he told supporters staging a sit-in at two road junctions that brought Male to a halt.
“I call on you to block these streets … Let us shut down Male. Male can’t function, we must succeed.”