AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Ousted Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed welcomes an Indian-brokered deal to enable early elections on the islands but will press ahead with a rally of supporters on Friday, his party said.
The new president of the Maldives, Mohamed Waheed, agreed on Thursday to bring forward elections originally scheduled for October 2013 in an apparent concession to Nasheed, who claims he was toppled in a coup d'etat.
The Indian Ocean country has endured political turmoil and violence since February 7 when Nasheed, the Maldives' first democratically elected leader, stepped down following street protests and a mutiny by police officers.
"We are very happy, early elections is a position we have been lobbying for hard," Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) spokesman Hamid Abdul Gafoor told AFP.
"We believe president Nasheed was deposed at gun point, through a very craftily orchestrated military-backed coup that gave an impression he was ousted by popular revolt," said Gafoor, who is also an MDP lawmaker.
Visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, who helped broker the deal to resolve the political impasse on Thursday, departed with the understanding that the MDP would call off a protest on Friday evening because of the risks of further violence.
But Gafoor said the event would still go ahead.
"It will be a peaceful one, a show of strength that we have the backing of the people to press for the rebel Waheed government to resign and call for early elections," he said.
The United States and Britain have issued travel advisories urging citizens against "all but essential" travel to Male, though the outlying islands that host luxury beach resorts were unaffected by the warning.
The Maldives relies heavily on tourism for income, with the industry estimating it could lose more than $100 million in revenue due to the cancellation of visitor bookings after the political unrest.