Diplomacy Politics

Maldives opposition seeks EU help for free and fair election in 2018

Representatives of the opposition coalition met with a visiting European Union delegation Sunday night and sought help to pave the way for an inclusive, free and fair presidential election in 2018.

The visit comes after the European Parliament adopted a resolution earlier this month urging Maldivian authorities to reform the judiciary, release political prisoners, and to guarantee the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly.

MPs Eva Abdulla, Mariya Ahmed Didi and Rozaina Adam from the Maldivian Democratic Party, MP Abdulla Riyaz from the Jumhooree Party, Shidhaatha Shareef and Ahmed Numan from the Adhaalath Party, former ruling party MP Mohamed Ameeth, and Yumna Maumoon, daughter of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom briefed the EU delegation at the three-hour meeting last night.

Ahead of the meeting, the MDP put out a statement stressing that next year’s polls cannot be free and fair “while opposition leaders are under arrest or serving sentences on trumped-up charges, designed to disqualify them from the elections.”

Both of President Abdulla Yameen’s rivals in the 2013 election, former President Mohamed Nasheed and JP leader Gasim Ibrahim, as well as several other high-profile politicians have been convicted after widely condemned trials.

The 2018 election cannot be deemed credible “until this injustice is corrected,” the statement added.

“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 main opposition party said.

During a visit in February last year, Richard Howitt, MEP, told the local press: “There is no chance that elections that are due to place here in 2018 will be rated as free and fair by Europe or the international community unless [dialogue to resolve the political crisis] start and start now.”

The present nine-member delegation, which includes MEPs Jean Lambert, Richard Corbett, and Ulrike Müller as well as officials from the Secretariat of the European Parliament and the EU delegation to the Maldives, meanwhile met with Foreign Minister Dr Mohamed Asim on Monday morning.

According to the foreign ministry, discussions focused on “environment and climate change, counter-terrorism and violent extremism, socio-economic development, strengthening governance and democratic framework.”

Both sides also exchanged views on “progress of on-going initiatives under the EU-Maldives cooperation, such as the collaboration on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fisheries Policy and the EU Election Observer mission.”

The delegation is also due to visit Addu City to check progress on the Climate Change Adaptation Project (CCAP) in the southernmost atolls, a project fully funded by the EU, administered by the World Bank and implemented by the environment ministry.

The European Parliament resolution on October 5 had urged member states to consider imposing targeted sanctions over “the deteriorating political and human rights situation in the Maldives and the increasingly authoritarian rule of President Abdulla Yameen”.

But the Maldivian government dismissed it as “highly motivated by one-sided political rhetoric” and containing “inaccuracies, contradictions, misrepresentations and baseless allegations.”

The foreign ministry said at the time that it was “difficult to comprehend the motive and the timing of such a resolution at a time when the Government of Maldives is preparing to welcome a European Parliament delegation in a few weeks’ time, where they could have had the opportunity to assess the situation on the ground and adopt a fair and balanced resolution.”

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