Nasheed Seeks Plebiscite to end Maldivian Crisis

COLOMBO: Former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed called on Saturday for a referendum to test the legitimacy of the new government which he accused of coming to power in a military coup.

Nasheed, who met Sri Lankan leaders and Colombo-based diplomats in a bid to drum up support for his pro-democracy campaign, said he was ready to face a plebiscite on the legitimacy of his successor.

“The referendum question can be framed to determine the legitimacy of the (new) government,” Nasheed told reporters at the end of his overnight visit to Sri Lanka, his first travel abroad after he was replaced on February 7.

Nasheed has insisted that he was forced to step down after some 300 soldiers, backed by Salafist Islamic radicals and local businessmen, staged a mutiny that capped three weeks of anti-government protests.

The European Union as well as the United States and neighboring India have called for early elections to end the political turmoil in a country which is best known for its upmarket tourism.

However, the new administration of President Mohamed Waheed has said it was not possible to hold early elections unless all political parties agreed to amend the constitution in the fledgling democracy.

Nasheed became the first democratically elected leader in the Maldives following the nation’s first multi-party elections in October 2008.

President Waheed told parliament earlier in the week that riots following Nasheed’s “resignation” cost the atoll nation of 330,000 Sunni Muslims an estimated 180 million rufiyaa ($11.8 million).

Last week, the 54-member Commonwealth voiced “disappointment and deep concern” over the failure of Maldivian parties to reach a political settlement that would pave the way for fresh polls.

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