- POSTED: 27 Sep 2013 20:07
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Police in the Maldives said Friday they had arrested 14 protesters involved in hanging white underpants outside a courthouse as a constitutional crisis over stalled elections on the honeymoon islands deepened.
MALE: Police in the Maldives said Friday they had arrested 14 protesters involved in hanging white underpants outside a courthouse as a constitutional crisis over stalled elections on the honeymoon islands deepened.
Supporters of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) begun displaying white briefs in public to taunt Supreme Court judge Ali Hameed who was allegedly filmed during a sex romp in a video that has gone viral.
The Supreme Court has angered the MDP and been criticised by the international community for suspending the runoff round of presidential elections due on Saturday after MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed won the first vote.
The runoff has been halted pending a petition by the third-placed candidate who challenged the result and said he should be facing Nasheed in the final two-way race.
The constitutional crisis worsened on Friday after the head of the Election Commission Fuad Thaufeeq said that voting would take place this weekend in defiance of the court, which issued an order instructing the army to prevent balloting.
Thaufeeq's deputy also contradicted him, indicating a schism inside the vital institution.
"We will not go against the law," the deputy head of the election commission Ahmed Fayaz told AFP. "We will not have elections on Saturday unless the Supreme Court removes the suspension order."
The arrested underpants protesters were aged between 18 and 47. Police spokesman Hassan Haneef said they had obstructed police who tried to pull down a super-sized pair hung up outside a courthouse in the island of Rasdhoo on Wednesday.
"There was a crowd outside the Rasdhoo court and they were putting up some things (underwear)," Haneef told AFP. "The 14 men were arrested for obstructing police duties and injuring three officers."
A senior MDP legislator Mariya Didi also raised a large pair of white underpants at a protest rally in the capital Thursday to denounce judicial corruption.
"Our supporters are very imaginative and use novel ways to keep up their protests," MDP spokesman Hamed Abdul Ghafoor told AFP. "The underpants protest is one of them. It is peaceful."
The Maldives' fledgling democracy has been in crisis for the last year and a half after the violent ousting of Nasheed, the islands' first democratically elected president who came to power in 2008.
He resigned after a mutiny by police, but said his decision to step down was made under duress and amounted to a coup orchestrated by the Maldives' long-time autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ruled for three decades.
Nasheed won the first round of the presidential election held on September 7 and secured 45.45 per cent of the popular vote. He took a comfortable lead over his nearest rival Abdulla Yameen who polled 25.35 per cent.
Business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, who finished third, filed a petition challenging the result and arguing that he should be the candidate to challenge Nasheed at Saturday's run off.
The Supreme Court ordered that the second round be suspended while the alleged fraud was investigated.
Local and international observer groups found the first round of voting to be free and fair.
The Maldives has resisted international pressure to ensure the run-off takes place without delay and outgoing President Mohamed Waheed has maintained that they must allow the legal process to take its course.
Nasheed, a former pro-democracy campaigner, has railed against the country's judiciary before.
He sees it as biased and intent on protecting the interests of former autocrat Gayoom and of a handful of tycoons who control the tourism industry in the country of more than 1,000 coral-fringed islands.