More than a quarter of a million people will vote on Sunday for the next leader of the tropical Maldives in an election criticized internationally for a lack of transparency and suppression of government critics. President Abdulla Yameen is seeking a second five-year term in the Indian Ocean archipelago, a popular high-end tourist destination and a key state in the battle for influence between India and China. But the government has jailed many of his main rivals after speedy trials for charges ranging from terrorism to corruption, and introduced new vote-counting rules that observers say will prevent them from seeing individual ballot papers, leading to doubts about the legitimacy of the vote.
The main opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) and local and international observers have also raised concerns over restrictions on foreign journalists wanting to cover the polls and the Election Commission’s refusal to share the final list of voters.
“Maldives authorities have detained critics, muzzled the media and misused the Election Commission to obstruct opposition candidates to ensure President Yameen a victory on election day,” said Patricia Gossman, Asia associate director at Human Rights Watch.
Transparency Maldives (TM), an independent election monitor, said on Tuesday that “unless these issues are resolved, it is very likely that the outcome of such an election will not be accepted by the people”.