The Maldivian Democratic Party calls for the immediate release of its Deputy Chairperson, Ali Niyaz. Niyaz was arrested today, from a peaceful gathering calling for free and fair elections.
The local council elections, scheduled for January 2017, has been postponed by two months. On 30 November, a Civil Court order delayed the elections by two months, following the Government Party’s faction – loyal to President Yameen – request to delay the polls. The verdict was based on the “principle of necessity” citing the ruling party’s inability to prepare for polls in the wake of a bitter leadership dispute, and that the Governing party would face “irreparable damage” if the polls take place under the current circumstances. The sitting Judge also said it would be a “setback for democracy and damaging to the interests of the state, if the ruling party, were unable to contest the elections.” Following the ruling, the Elections Commission had announced that this would likely impact and set a precedence for delaying future elections.
The MDP is concerned the ruling is a forewarning for similar interferences in the Presidential elections of 2018, and thwarting future elections.
Niyaz, along with another demonstrator were arrested from a peaceful demonstration protesting the court ruling, and other interferences by the state apparatus in the electoral process. Ali Niyaz is also MDP’s representative at the Elections Commission’s Advisory Committee for the local council elections.
The Government of Maldives’ crackdown on peaceful political activity has been widely condemned by both local and international observers. The Commonwealth’s Special Envoy to the Maldives had observed a “high level of fear and intimidation,” while the US, UK, the EU, Norway and Canada had observed “the erosion of fundamental freedoms and democratic institutions in the country.” The MDP is concerned the Government is heightening its crackdown, ahead of March’s elections, and the unlawful arrest of the party’s deputy chairperson, shows a clear targeting of political leaders. The MDP calls on the Government of Maldives to end the crackdown on peaceful critics, and stop the violation of human rights.
Rapidly losing any remaining popular support, with the Government at near financial bankruptcy, and with his own party mired in an acrimonious internal conflict, President Yameen is faltering in the face of a free and fair electoral process. Through his interference in the process, and through his brutal suppression of all political dissent, President Yameen proves that he will not subject himself to the will of the people. Time is running out for the people of the Maldives. We urge our good friends in the international community to meaningfully engage with all stakeholders within the state to facilitate and ensure free and fair elections.