Maldives to vote in crucial election on Sunday

The Commission has set up as many as 472 ballot boxes, including in four polling stations abroad in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and UK.

Updated - November 28, 2021 09:06 am IST

Published - September 22, 2018 06:56 pm IST - COLOMBO

 A Maldivian election worker prepares poll material at the election commissioner’s office centre in Male on September 22, 2018.

A Maldivian election worker prepares poll material at the election commissioner’s office centre in Male on September 22, 2018.

Around 2,60,000 Maldivians will cast their vote on Sunday in the island nation’s third-ever multi party presidential election since 2008.

The election has come under focus amidst fears of possible poll rigging and violence. In a statement issued on Saturday, the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) said the obstruction of election observers and most media outlets was the “latest sign of polling misconduct”.

“The political environment in the country is heavily tipped in favour of the ruling party, as critical media are being subdued into silence, and opposition figures sentenced to jail terms or forced into exile for politically motivated charges,” ANFREL said in a statement.

Incumbent President Yameen, of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), is seeking a second term on the platform of development for all, running against senior lawmaker Ibrahim Mohamed Solih who a coalition of opposition parties, led by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), backs. The opposition has been campaigning for restoring democracy in the troubled Indian Ocean Archipelago that is home to nearly 4 lakh people.

 

Emphasising that the elections are being held by the rule book, Ahmed Akram, Commissioner and spokesperson at the Maldives Elections Commission, said nobody can prove any malpractice or lapse. Amidst growing scepticism over the Commission’s independence, Mr. Akram told The Hindu from Male over telephone, “I don’t know how they [critics] define free and fair election. As far as we are concerned, each and everything we have done is by law and regulation.”

The Commission has set up as many as 472 ballot boxes, including in four polling stations abroad in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the United Kingdom.

Barring a few international election observers and media persons, many on the list of approved monitors put out by the Elections Commission had not obtained a visa until Saturday evening. According to one international observer who spoke to The Hindu from Male, the Commission denied the monitors’ access to any opposition member and instead gave them a restricted guided tour. “They have been taking us to good tourism spots in Male and one of the islands and not to voting centres as I had expected,” he said, requesting anonymity.

The crucial election has also been under the international spotlight with the United States, European Union, United Kingdom and India, among others, urging Maldivian authorities to ensure conduct of a free and fair election.

Over the last six months since Mr. Yameen declared a 45-day State of Emergency, following a top court’s order freeing dissident leaders, they have become more vocal in their concern about the shrinking democratic space in the Maldives.

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