Maldives to plan first multiparty elections in 2008

The Indian Ocean archipelago of Maldives plans to revise its constitution and hold its first multiparty parliamentary elections in 2008, the government said Tuesday. "Work is under way to amend the existing constitution and we are hopeful to hold the national elections between July and October 2008," chief government spokesman Mohamed Hussain Shareef said by telephone from the capital, Male.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has governed the Maldives since 1978 with tight control. He promised political reforms in 2004 in response to international pressure sparked by anti-government riots and allegations of torture of political prisoners.

Four political parties are now officially functioning in the Maldives , made up of 1,192 coral islands. Earlier, political parties were banned and political dissent of any type was not tolerated. Shareef said reforms to be approved before the elections include lifting a ban on women running for the presidency, creation of a human tights commission, limiting of the presidency to two five-year terms, creation of a position of prime minister, and a separation of the executive, judiciary and legislative branches of government.

The Maldives is a Muslim nation of about 300,000 people. An estimated 150,000 people will be eligible to vote in 2008, Shareef said, reports the AP.


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