Commonwealth panel seeks early election in Maldives

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 22, 2012 17:44 hrs

London/Male: The Commonwealth on Wednesday suspended Maldives from the membership of its main panel and asked it to hold early elections to address the political crisis, arguing that the constitutionality of ousted president Mohamed Nasheed's stepping down was not conclusive.

At an extraordinary meeting here of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), a representative body that looks into violations of the bloc's political values, the panel discussed a three-member team's visit to the Maldives and its conclusions from it.

The results from the meeting appeared to boost Nasheed's stand and demand for early elections.

The CMAG stopped short of suspending Maldives membership from the Commonwealth group of nations but decided that Male's membership of the ministerial action group would be in abeyance, indicating that it did not yet recognise the government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

The body asked Maldives to hold early elections within this year and appealed to the disputing parties in the country to hold serious political dialogue.

"The group urged President Waheed and former president Nasheed to commence an immediate dialogue, without preconditions, to agree on a date for early elections, which should take place within this calendar year," Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma said.

The Maldives would be suspended from the ministerial action group but not the Commonwealth, he told a press conference in London.

The body concluded that the constitutionality of ousted president Nasheed's stepping down and the circumstances around it was not conclusive, and called for international participation in the probe announced by the present government into the events that led to Nasheed's ouster.

It also said that the arrest warrant against Nasheed should not prejudice his rights and election campaign.

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