Exiled Nasheed calls on EU for fair Maldivian elections

Brussels: Former Maldivian president, Mohamed Nasheed visited Brussels and Strasbourg and called on the European Union to issue a populated sanctions list and support a ‘free and fair Presidential Election’ in the island nation, which is scheduled for September 23.

“We need the sanctions list to be released with names, because Yameen and his people do not believe the EU intends to act. They believe the Sanctions Framework is an empty threat,” the EP Today quoted the former president, who now lives in exile in London, as saying.

Nasheed’s meeting with the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) comes in the backdrop of an unofficial visit of a fact-finding committee to the Maldives in August. The five-member delegation, comprising of officials of European institutions, made concerning revelations about the state of democracy in the country.

The delegation held meetings with opposition supporters and members of the civil society, highlighting concerns regarding the Maldivian Electoral Commission, which lacks transparency in its functioning and is also accused of tampering with voter registrations and the ballot process.

The Commission is also accused of conflict of interest as their officials have publicly rallied for President Abdulla Yameen. These activities have accounted for growing fears in the Maldives that thousands of votes will be manipulated.

Polls in the Maldives currently indicate more than 58 per cent voter support for the opposition candidate, although, with incumbent President Yameen’s efforts to rig the elections, there is no certainty about the outcome of the elections.

Overwhelming evidence, including eye-witnesses, video recordings , written testimonies, support the allegations against the incumbent President’s efforts to rig the elections. Also, at a rally conducted recently, an accomplice of the First Lady declared that if Nasheed was to ever return to the country, he would be decapitated.

“The First Lady is in charge of voter registration, she is reviewing all of the registration papers before they are authenticated,” Nasheed said, adding, “To assume this election can be free and fair is ridiculous, the regime has shown they have no intention of letting these elections take place in a democratic manner. We need the EU’s help to retain the integrity of our institutions.”

The current government has prevented opposition candidates from contesting, either through arrests and imprisonments, or via exile, and has also restricted the campaigning activities of the remaining opposition candidates, who are contesting.

At the European Parliament in Strasbourg, exiled Nasheed met with as many as 15 MEPs for one-on-one discussions.

Several MEPs agreed to co-sign a statement from the European Parliament calling for the European Union to support free and fair elections in the Maldives. The possibility of a second parliamentary resolution was also raised and, with the elections slated to take place end of next week, it was accepted that there was not enough time to complete the process.

EP Today said Nasheed also expressed concerns over China’s interference in the region, saying, “China has recently lost the elections in Sri Lanka, they do not want to lose again. Keeping Yameen in power helps them because he listens to them. If he wins, they will accept the elections results immediately.”

“It is important for us that the EU acts before the elections because afterwards, it will be too late. Have you ever heard of a regime that gains power through fraudulent elections giving up this power after, when the international community condemns them? This does not happen,” the former president added.