Exiled Maldivian leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed has secured around 40,000 votes in the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) presidential primary that its members held on Wednesday, defying a court order that they termed politically motivated.
Mr. Nasheed ran as a single candidate without a contest, but the party constitution needed him to prove support from at least 10% of the near-53,000 members to be declared winner. He secured over 80%, despite alleged police interference cited by the MDP. Party members living in India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia also voted in ballot boxes specially arranged.
The Maldives’s Election Commission has vowed action on the MDP for the “illegal political activity”, local media reports said. Last week, the Commission announced that persons with criminal convictions were disallowed from contesting presidential polls, effectively barring dissident opposition leaders, including Mr. Nasheed, from running.
Expressing concern over the deterioration of the situation in the Maldives, the Delegation of the European Union, along with Colombo-based EU Heads of Mission and the Ambassadors of Canada and the U.S. resident accredited to the Maldives said in a joint statement that legitimate opposition is a vital part of any healthy democracy.
“We urge authorities to demonstrate genuine commitment to a credible, transparent, and inclusive election process.”
Rights watchdog Human Rights Watch earlier criticised the Election Commission for its “politically motivated exclusion of opposition party candidates” from the September 2018 presidential elections.
The MDP primary comes after months of political turmoil in the Indian Ocean archipelago, triggered by a shock Supreme Court ruling in February that overturned convictions of nine opposition leaders, including Mr. Nasheed, followed by a 45-day Emergency imposed by President Abdulla Yameen. After the February 1 order, Mr. Nasheed — earlier barred from contesting elections — vowed to run for presidency, but part of the Supreme Court bench soon revoked the order.
The MDP, which had termed the move constitutionally invalid, went ahead with the primary on Wednesday. “Our members knew that the government had barred me from contesting, but they voted for me in large numbers. They have made a decisive statement that my name should be on the ballot paper in the presidential poll,” Mr. Nasheed told The Hindu in Colombo, where he is currently based.
Asked how this might impact his chances of contesting presidential polls this year, Mr. Nasheed said the MDP, now re-activated for political activism, would have to work towards making the candidate of their choice contest presidential elections. “Our members have spoken clearly, I cannot run away now. We must listen. The international community must listen,” he said.
‘India must act soon’
Despite being in conversation with India, the party was unable to make any “meaningful headway”, the former President said. “If India is unable to secure free and fair election in the Maldives, China’s hold there will be irreversibly strengthened,” he said, renewing his call for New Delhi’s “muscular intervention”.
His remark comes days after External Affairs Minister Susma Swaraj said India’s bilateral ties were “not broken and cannot be broken”.