India pushes for early elections in Maldives, parties agree (Lead)

February 29th, 2012 - 10:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Male/New Delhi, Feb 29 (IANS) On his second visit to the Maldives in nearly a fortnight, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai held wide-ranging discussions in the capital Male that culminated in a broad consensus for early elections in a “quick time frame” and a growing recognition of India’s role as a facilitator in resolving the political crisis in the Indian Ocean island nation.

India has also denied allegations of meddling in the internal affairs of the island nation and stressed that it was only playing the role of the facilitator as asked by the Maldives president.

During his three-day visit to Male that ended Wednesday, Mathai met President Mohammed Waheed Hassan, his predecessor Mohamed Nasheed who was ousted Feb 7 in questionable circumstances and leaders of small parties both individually and collectively.

“All parties expressed the view that India had played a very useful role in taking the process forward as a facilitator and friend of the Maldivian people,” the external affairs ministry said in New Delhi Wednesday.

The discussions resulted in “a broad measure of agreement” among all parties that envisaged continued dialogue “on the way forward, including possible amendment to the Constitution and enactment of legislation for institutional reforms”.

The parties recognised the need to undertake the necessary amendments and legislation within a quick timeframe in the People’s Majlis (parliament) and a broad agreement on the need for early elections, said the ministry.

It was decided that the All Party Consultative Committee (APCC) and further consultations among all major parties would continue to enable early elections.

Mathai proposed a paper which indicated presidential election before the end of this year, a section of the media in the Maldives said.

The Maldives president reiterated appreciation for India’s assistance and support to the reconciliation process.

He conveyed to Mathai that “considerable progress had been achieved and that there was optimism on the further potential outcome,” said the ministry. “It was agreed that India would continue its role of facilitator, as needed.”

Mathai’s visit came amid escalating differences among leading political parties on holding elections and the course of political reconciliation in the country. The ouster of Nasheed, the first democratically elected president, Feb 7 amid a police mutiny and protests, plunged the strategically located island nation in protracted turmoil.

However, with India’s active diplomatic outreach, the situation showed some sign of stabilising with key political actors agreeing on the need for early elections.

Mathai’s presence at an all-party meeting in Male Tuesday night attracted murmurs of protest from some parties who contended that India was meddling in internal affairs of the island nation.

Harsh Vardhan Shringla, joint secretary in charge of the Maldives in the external affairs ministry, however, clarified that Waheed had requested the foreign secretary to participate in the APCC talks.

At a press conference in Male, Shringla said an official invitation was extended to Mathai by Mujuthaba, the coordinator of the talks, Tuesday night.

Shringla stressed that said the Indian government will not get involved in internal affairs of Maldives but will only act as a facilitator and will do everything possible to help restore peace and stability.

Asked about the allegations of interference, he said India does not wish to interfere in anyway in the decision-making about the roadmap or the issue of dates for the early election.

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