29 October, Male’: The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has warned that presidential elections, Constitutionally-mandated to be held next year, cannot be considered free, fair or credible if opposition party candidates are prevented from contesting.
The MDP reiterates this position amidst growing concern that the regime of President Yameen has no intention of allowing opposition candidates to compete in the poll.
On March 24, all the opposition leaders — President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, President Mohamed Nasheed, Hon. Qasim Ibrahim & Sheikh Imran — signed an agreement to restore Maldivian democracy and fundamental freedoms. In the agreement, the parties and their leaders agreed to work to ensure elections are free and fair, and candidates of political parties’ choosing are allowed to contest.
The Maldives is now less than a year away from the 2018 presidential elections. The elections will not be free and fair while opposition leaders are under arrest or serving sentences on trumped up charges, designed to disqualify them from the elections. Over 21 opposition MPs are also under arrest or facing prosecution.
Political parties, and not President Yameen, must be allowed to choose their candidates in the elections. President Mohamed Nasheed, the MDP leader, must be allowed to stand as the party’s candidate. President Nasheed remains disqualified following an egregiously unjust and politically motivated show trial. The 2018 elections cannot be deemed credible, free or fair until this injustice is corrected.
For the elections to be meaningfully democratic and free, everyone should have the right to stand, and also the right to vote freely without government intimidation and obstruction.
The MDP is deeply concerned over the lack of commitment by the Government to improve the political atmosphere in preparation for the elections. The Government must immediately release all political leaders and political prisoners, and drop all charges against opposition lawmakers.
The Government must also expedite the processes and arrangements to ensure political parties can field candidates of their own choosing. The MDP is the largest political party in the country, with its members making up some 25% of the electorate, and the party commanding over 48% of the vote. Disqualifying the party’s candidate, President Nasheed, from the upcoming elections is unacceptable to the party and its supporters.