Maldives president leaves country on eve of crucial polls

NEW DELHI, November 15, 2013 (AFP) – The president of the Maldives has left the country on the eve of national elections that have been delayed three times, his spokesman said Friday, leaving a leadership void amid a constitutional crisis. Mohamed Waheed, who took office after a contested transfer of power last February, left for Hong Kong and Singapore on Thursday evening to accompany his wife to a medical appointment, spokesman Masood Imad said.
Presidential elections are to be held on Saturday.

“I believe it was an appointment they had for some time that they deemed not necessary to postpone any more,” Imad told AFP, saying Waheed’s wife was suffering with an eye problem.

Waheed, who as president commands the country’s armed forces, would not be back for a month, he added.

Pressure has been mounting on the former UN official from Western nations and India, with the European Union warning of “appropriate measures” this week if the Indian Ocean islands failed to hold a free vote.

Under the terms of the constitution, Waheed’s term in office officially lapsed last weekend but he said he would remain in power to allow the selection of a replacement.

The tourism-dependent country has been gripped by protests and inst