Maldives Oppn. confident despite rigging fears

Amidst concern among sections over possible rigging in the imminent Maldivian presidential elections, the Opposition on Monday said it was confident of defeating incumbent President Abdulla Yameen. “We trust the people,” Joint Opposition presidential candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih told media persons here.

The Maldives is scheduled go to polls on September 23, with Mr Yameen and Mr Solih in the contest. Mr Solih was in Colombo to canvas with the Maldivian community living in Sri Lanka. Nearly 30,000-strong, the community has a vibrant presence, mostly along Colombo’s southern suburbs.

Addressing a packed hall at a beachside hotel, Mr. Solih vowed to defeat Mr. Yameen, whose slant towards authoritarianism has drawn domestic resistance and international criticism. “We will strengthen our ties with our neighbours and work for greater stability of the Indian Ocean Region,” he said.

The Joint Opposition is a coalition led by former President Mohamed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), along with the Jumhooree Party, Adalath Party and a faction of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) led by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, now in prison.

After the Election Commission announced in May that it would reject the presidential candidacy of those convicted of criminal charges, effectively banning the four main opposition leaders from running, Mr. Nasheed pulled out of the race. The opposition coalition fielded senior parliamentarian Mr Solih to challenge Mr Yameen.

“When people come out in overwhelming numbers, we are sure to win,” said Mr. Nasheed, appearing certain that they would “overcome rigging”.

The Maldivian elections come after months of political unrest in the Indian Ocean archipelago, triggered by a shock Supreme Court ruling early this year that ordered the release of dissent leaders in prison. In an apparent political crackdown, the government arrested the Chief Justice and a Supreme Court judge, along with former President Mr. Gayoom. The remaining bench overturned the order, and Mr. Yameen declared an Emergency that lasted 45 days.

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