The Elections Commission has dismissed calls by the opposition parties to delay the parliamentary elections due to take place on April 6.
Citing the detention of former president Abdulla Yameen for trial on money laundering charges, the opposition Progressive Party of Maldives-People’s National Congress alliance told the press on Saturday that letters have been sent to both the EC and parliament requesting the delay.
“Our coalition does not believe there is an environment conducive for a free and election,” opposition lawmaker Abdul Raheem Abdulla said.
The opposition’s goal at present was freeing Yameen, he added. The 59-year-old opposition leader’s arrest was illegal and arbitrary, Abdul Raheem contended.
Several opposition candidates have received threats about being barred from contesting, he alleged.
The electoral body plans to conduct the polls as scheduled. There is no legal basis for a delay, said EC member Ahmed Akram.
The 2017 local council elections were delayed three times, with the EC saying at one point the situation was not conducive for campaigning due to a flu outbreak. But a week after the announcement, the education ministry said public schools would reopen as the seasonal outbreak was under control.
In the wake of Yameen’s heavy defeat in September’s presidential election, EC members were accused of vote rigging and the Supreme Court was petitioned for fresh polls. But the court dismissed unsubstantiated claims of pens with disappearing ink, vanishing chemicals and a ring with a secret pen.
The incumbent was defeated by a record margin of 38,653 votes.
EC chief Ahmed Shareef told the press on Saturday that the commission has decided to stamp each ballot paper in addition to the usual security features.
Briefing the press, the EC revealed that it has accepted the candidacies of 395 contenders, including 360 men and 35 women. Eight application forms were rejected for undisclosed reasons.
The 395 candidates for the 87 parliamentary constituencies include:
- 86 from the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party,
- 41 from coalition partner Jumhooree Party,
- 26 from the main opposition Progressive Party of Maldives,
- 23 from the People’s National Congress,
- 10 from former vice president Ahmed Adeeb’s Maldives Third-Way Democrats
- nine from the ruling coalition’s Adhaalath Party
- nine from the newly-formed Labour Party
- eight from the minority opposition Maldives Development Alliance
- 186 independent candidates
With 10 contestants, the Maafanu West constituency in the capital Malé has the most number of candidates, followed by Nolhivaram and Isdhoo constituencies with nine candidates each, and the Henveiru North constituency with eight candidates.
Apart from 10 constituencies with only two candidates, most other races will be contested between three to seven candidates, according to the EC.
Some 264,589 people will be eligible to vote.
The EC has also decided to increase the number of ballot boxes as there were long lines at most polling stations during September’s election.