Maldives President Abdulla Yameen. (Reuters)
As Maldives votes in a key presidential election on Sunday amidst a government crackdown and Opposition fears of rigging, President Abdulla Yameen told The Sunday Express that his administration was “committed to holding free, fair and transparent elections”. “If elected, my administration is further committed to fulfilling our vision of an independent and progressive Maldives,” he said.
On Saturday, the Opposition alleged that the Maldives Police had entered their campaign headquarters in Male around 4 pm. “No court warrant was produced. They raided the building citing illegal activities. People are prevented from leaving or entering the premises,” said a message from the Opposition coalition late Saturday evening.
The Indian Ocean archipelago is going into this election without two of its former presidents — 80-year-old Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who is in prison, and Mohamed Nasheed, who is in exile in Colombo. They are among a long list of politicians and members of the judiciary who are in prison or in exile, among them Yameen’s first vice president Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, who in London, and Chief Justice of the country’s Supreme Court, Abdulla Saeed, who is behind bars.
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When asked about charges of running an authoritarian regime, Yameen said “justice is blind”. “No one has been charged, detained or sentenced outside of the procedures outlined in our Constitution, Laws and Regulations,” he said. With the international community, including China, India, US and the European Union, closely watching the election, Yameen said “international partners must respect our right to self-determination, a founding principle of the charter of the UN”.
Yameen’s rival, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, represents the Opposition coalition of four political parties and has served as a parliamentarian for about 25 years.
Eva Abdulla, one of the three women Opposition parliamentarians, accused the country’s election commission of committing “blatant fraud”. “President Yameen is using the entire state apparatus for his campaign. There is no distinction between the ruling party’s office and the President’s office. Government vehicles are being used to bring people for political rallies, officers of the EC are seen doing political work,” she said on Friday.
Official spokeperson for the joint Opposition, Ahmed Mahloof, an MP who is currently in house arrest, said they had received reports of “possible rigging during the counting process”. “The election commission, judiciary and all crucial institutions are controlled by President Yameen. We are really worried about this election. But if he ensures a transparent process, we will win,” he said.
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A top source close to President Yameen dismissed these fears. “Our manifesto is clear, we are focusing on development. Meanwhile, the Opposition is defaming the government with random allegations,” the source said.
The Election Commission also issued a statement refuting all allegations and urged all parties to “refrain from spreading misinformation”.