The Maldives has surprised itself by screeching to a halt for a second time in the holding of the presidential elections. The first time was when its supreme court cancelled the run-off to the first round of elections that had been held in September. The proffered reason was fraudulent voting. The court had stipulated October 20 as the date for the holding of the re-election. That too has now been withheld by the police on grounds that two candidates could not be reached by the election commission for their confirmation of the electoral roll. This is mismanagement at its worst. At one stroke, the election commission has been reduced to a bumbling, ponderous State institution that cannot be trusted to carry out a vote systematically while the Mohamed Waheed administration has been absolved of any wrongdoing. Mr Waheed has even agreed to step down in answer to the call of the former president, Mohamed Nasheed, that a caretaker government be put in place to hold the elections. For all practical purposes though, the electoral process in the Maldives has been thrown out of gear. The country is all set to miss the constitutionally-mandated date of November 11 for the appointment of a new head of state. Even beyond that, technical glitches of the kind that has held back the process could delay the appointment of a new government. Given that internal turmoil in the Maldives is already peaking, that is cause for worry not only for those in the country who want democracy to win but also for those in the region who fear that instability in the island nation could endanger the security of the Indian Ocean region.
India belongs to the latter category. Unfortunately, its influence in the Maldives has weakened to such an extent that it seems to have no control over the situation. It is perhaps aware of the wisdom of Mr Nasheed’s demand for a caretaker government being allowed to hold the elections to ensure its fairness. But having extended its support to the Waheed government in 2012, India is in no position to pan it and risk being labelled partisan. Its only hope lies in egging the incumbent government on to fulfil its responsibility. But India will need the support of a wider community of nations since the anti-democratic, extremist fringe in Maldives’ politics has grown stronger since the last elections, thanks to the games being played on the Maldives’ soil by the region’s rival powers.