Elections Commission under pressure to favour ruling combine: MDP

The Maldivian Democratic Party has alleged that a concerted move was on to pressure the Elections Commission (EC), and that other institutions of the state were being used to make the Commission favour the ruling combine ahead of the parliamentary elections.

Top MDP office-bearers, who spoke to The Hindu on Thursday, feared that the elections, called for March 22, might be postponed, just as last year’s Presidential polls were. MDP president Mohamed Nasheed, who spoke to this correspondent over phone from the Maldivian capital Male, said that the EC, ever since it was constituted in 2008, had held many elections that were certified as free and fair by international observers. The Supreme Court had suddenly initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against the EC.

“During the time of Gayoom [pre-2008, reference to Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, former President], the most important tool for perpetuating control over the country was a body that conducted elections in a manner that he wanted. He appointed his people to the Elections Commission.

The move to pressure the Elections Commission is an attempt to interfere with its functioning by those who fear a free and fair election process,” he said in response to a question. The Supreme Court had interfered in last year’s Presidential polls, and had come in for criticism from the international community, including observers who were stationed in the archipelago nation to monitor the polls.

Mr. Nasheed said the MDP had made significant gains in the local body elections held soon after the Presidential polls were conducted last year.

“This came as a shock to the government and the other parties opposed to us. They did not think we will do so well,” he said, and attributed the current moves to ‘rein in’ the Elections Commission to this development.

The one worrying factor in the local body elections was the vast improvement in number of seats cornered by the religious Adaalath Party (AP). The AP, which had just over 5 seats in 2011, improved its tally to 45 seats in the local bodies, primarily because Gayoom’s party, the Progressive Party of Maldives, had a seat-sharing understanding with it.

Appealing to the international community to ensure free and fair parliamentary polls in the Maldives, and the conduct of the polls on the date specified, Mr. Nasheed said that unless the international community, specifically India, put pressure, Maldives would slip back into an autocracy. “Already many relatives of Gayoom are Ministers in the new government. They are trying to play one country against the other for short-term advantage. This is dangerous for Maldives,” he added.

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