• Saturday, Jun 06, 2020
  • Last Update : 11:01 pm

Tropical Maldives heads to polls amid criticism over fairness of vote

  • Published at 06:54 pm September 22nd, 2018
MALDIVES-ELECTION
Youths walk past the posters of Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Maldivian presidential candidate backed by the opposition coalition, on a road ahead of the presidential election in Male, Maldives September 19, 2018 Reuters

Yameen's administration made defamation a crime in 2016, a move government critics say was aimed at stifling dissent

More than a quarter of a million people will vote on Sunday for the next leader of the tropical Maldives in an election criticized internationally for a lack of transparency and suppression of government critics.

President Abdulla Yameen is seeking a second five-year term in the Indian Ocean archipelago, a popular high-end tourist destination and a key state in the battle for influence between India and China.

But the government has jailed many of his main rivals after speedy trials for charges ranging from terrorism to corruption, and introduced new vote-counting rules that observers say will prevent them from seeing individual ballot papers, leading to doubts about the legitimacy of the vote.

The main opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) and local and international observers have also raised concerns over restrictions on foreign journalists wanting to cover the polls and the Election Commission's refusal to share the final list of voters.

"Maldives authorities have detained critics, muzzled the media and misused the Election Commission to obstruct opposition candidates to ensure President Yameen a victory on election day,” said Patricia Gossman, Asia associate director at Human Rights Watch.

Transparency Maldives (TM), an independent election monitor, said on Tuesday that "unless these issues are resolved, it is very likely that the outcome of such an election will not be accepted by the people."

Election Commission spokesman Ahmed Akram told Reuters the allegations "don't have any basis in reality."

"The counting process will not be different from the previous elections," he said.

The Election Commission has previously said that foreign observers will be present, without naming who those will be.

Political manoeuvres

The country has faced upheaval since February, when Yameen imposed a state of emergency to annul a Supreme Court ruling that quashed the convictions of nine opposition leaders, including former president Mohamed Nasheed, the country's first democratically elected leader.

Since then, Yameen's ruling coalition has enacted laws without a required quorum in parliament, approved by the Supreme Court after its chief justice was arrested in February for alleged corruption under emergency regulations.

MDP leader Nasheed, who in 2009 famously held a cabinet meeting underwater in scuba gear to highlight the dangers of global warming to the low-lying islands, is currently in exile in Sri Lanka and is barred from standing in Sunday's poll.

Member of parliament Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (Ibu) is running against Yameen under an opposition coalition, promising democracy, a crackdown on corruption and better relations with the West after Yameen steered the country closer to China.

"What happens from today to the voting day remains uncertain," the MDP's spokesman, Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, who lives in exile, told Reuters.

Yameen's administration made defamation a crime in 2016, a move government critics say was aimed at stifling dissent. It also suspended 56 lawyers from attending court last year for demanding to uphold the rule of law.

"The space for civil society has not shrunk. It does not exist any more," Shahindha Ismail, the executive director at Maldives Democracy Network, told Reuters.

Yameen has disregarded calls from the United Nations, several western countries and India for an amicable solution to the lingering political crisis. In 2016, the Maldives quit the Commonwealth group of nations, which threatened to suspend the country after it criticised the government for rights abuses.

57
53
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail