Maldives gets ready for August polls

May 7, 2008 ( LBO) – The Indian Ocean Island of Maldives is in the final stages of wrapping up its new constitution, which will pave the way for the nation’s first multi-party elections this year, officials said Tuesday. Political parties have only been legal on the 1,192 coral islands since 2005 when President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom embarked on a series of reforms in the face of pro-democracy protests.

The new constitution, which is due to be signed off later this month, replaces the current legislation put in place since 1998.

“Under the new constitution, we will have independent commissions for elections, police and judiciary,” visiting Maldives’ Commissioner of Legal Reform, Mohamed Anil told reporters in Colombo.

The new constitution also includes provisions to limit the tenure of a president to two six-year terms and also allows women to head the nation of 369,000 Sunni Muslims.

The newly minted showcase piece of legislation will be put to the test this year, when the archiepelago holds its first multi-party presidential hustings on August 9. Parliamentary polls are scheduled to be held before next March.

Opposition parties have doubted the government’s ability to get independe