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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
08COLOMBO854
2008-09-11 02:04:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Colombo
Cable title:  

MALDIVES: MAJOR STEPS TAKEN AS DEADLINE NEARS FOR

Tags:   PGOV  PHUM  PREL  MV 
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RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 6244
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RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 3598
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 8677
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 6101
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2924
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 000854 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/09/2016
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL MV
SUBJECT: MALDIVES: MAJOR STEPS TAKEN AS DEADLINE NEARS FOR
FIRST MULTI-PARTY PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

REF: COLOMBO 765

Classified By: Ambassador Robert O. Blake, Jr., for reasons 1.4 (b,d).



1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Government has achieved significant,
if still insufficient, progress on preparations for the first
multi-party presidential elections in Maldivian history.
Elections Commissioner Ibrahim announced that if the
Parliament can pass two critical pieces of legislation by
September 13 the first round of voting will be October 4.
The announcement puts into question whether the Maldives will
be able to hold two rounds of voting by the constitutional
deadline of October 10. Nevertheless, campaigning continues
with the first ever Presidential debate held on September 3,
free media time being made available to the candidates and
opposition polling reportedly showing President Gayoom in
trouble. End Summary



2. (C) Despite a pace that puts into doubt the government's
ability to meet the constitutional deadline of October 10,
significant steps have been taken to prepare the legal and
administrative groundwork for the elections. On September
5, five Elections Commissioners, after receiving greater than
two-thirds support in Parliament, took their oaths of office
and began their work preparing for the elections. On
September 9 the Ministry of Information announced that each
of the candidates would be granted three 15 minute slots per
day on television. (Note: Initially the government was
offering the slots only to political parties, excluding
independent candidate and former Attorney General Hassan
Saeed; however, after Ambassador contacted the Foreign
Minister and Information Minister, Saeed was included in the
free media distribution. End Note)



3. (SBU) On September 8 Elections Commissioner Ahmed Shahid
announced that if the General Elections bill and the
Presidential Elections bill are passed by September 13 then
the first round of the Presidential Elections would be held
October 4th. Local NGO Transparency Maldives head Aiman
Rasheed questioned whether the Parliament would be able to
pass the legislation in time. Even if the first round is
held on October 4 it is unclear at this point how the
government would be able to hold a second round run off
between the top two finishers and adjudicate any disputes
about the results by the Constitutional deadline of October


10. Rasheed expected a period of "Constitutional void"
during a post-October 10 second round. Opposition Maldivian
Democratic Party representative Ahmed Naseem Mohammed
(Naseem) hinted that a legal interpretation might be found
that would re-interpret the Constitution to require just one
round of voting to be completed by October 10th.



4. (U) In addition to the flurry of legislative activity
the campaign continued. On September 3, following a failed
attempt in August, government television channel TVM hosted
the first ever presidential debate in Male. All six
presidential candidates took part in the two hour session.
The format of the debate did not allow candidates to question
each other; however, President Gayoom shared the stage as his
political opponents critiqued the size of his personal staff,
expressed concern about widespread corruption and discussed
their plans to address the economic and development issues
facing the country. On his personal blog Information and
Arts Minister Mohamed Nasheed aptly described the event as an
"historic first" and complimented the country on the "immense
maturity we have achieved...in a short span of time."



5. (C) MDP and NGO representatives reported that President
Gayoom came across as angry on stage during other candidates'
indirect attacks on him. Naseem reported that negotiations
are under way for two additional debates, one of which would
be hosted by private TV channel DFM, and allow candidates to
directly address each other. Naseem also reported that
internal MDP polling showed Gayoom in third place behind MDP

COLOMBO 00000854 002 OF 002


leader Anni and independent candidate Hassan Saeed.



6. (C) COMMENT: The government is most likely not going to be
able to meet the October 10 deadline; however, at this point
it appears that the President is committed to going forward
with the elections in a manner that does not overly slant the
playing field in his direction. He is clearly relying on
island chiefs to deliver some blocs of votes and ensure his
victory. It is unclear how he will react if as the election
nears his polling shows him losing or failing to make it into
a second round. One to two Embassy staff will be
participating in the planned EU monitoring mission for the
elections. GORM responsiveness to Ambassador's entreaties to
extend free airtime to all the candidates, the President's
grudging participation in the debate and the lack of reports
of significant intimidation of the opposition or monitoring
groups are all positive signs. While the Maldives may enter
a period of constitutional void, such a period would be a
much better outcome than a rushed and deeply flawed vote that
stuck to the constitutional timeframe. End Comment

BLAKE