The Maldivian government has hit back at criticism from the West over the “deterioration” of the country’s political situation ahead of presidential elections in September.
In a joint statement Thursday, ambassadors from the European Union, Canada and the United States urged the authorities to respect the freedoms of assembly and speech and “to demonstrate genuine commitment to a credible, transparent, and inclusive election process.”
The statement followed obstruction of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s presidential primary, which took place nationwide despite police snatching ballot boxes and arresting party officials.
But the government accused MDP of breaching the political party law, without specifying how the primary voting constituted legal violations.
“Attempts to undermine the constitution and the laws of the land and to hoodwink the people and hype pre-election political rhetoric cannot be considered as responsible political activities and thus will not have any place in the current political landscape of the country,” reads a statement released by the foreign ministry Friday.
“Actions taken by the government to stop such illegal and irresponsible activities and to maintain law and order and peace in the country should not be considered as actions aimed at curtailing or limiting fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the constitution, including freedom of assembly and speech.”
It urged the EU and other nations to “equally urge and encourage the opposition parties to refrain from such illegal activities and to genuinely demonstrate their full support and commitment to ensure the conduct of a smooth, transparent, credible and an inclusive elections process.”
Citing successful elections during the past decade, the government expressed confidence that September’s polls would also be endorsed as free and fair by international and local observers.
A civil court order to stop last Wednesday’s MDP primary was issued after the Elections Commission declared it unlawful over Nasheed’s ineligibility to run for office with a 13-year prison sentence.
In April, the government rejected calls from the UN Human Rights Committee to restore his right to run for office. The government also rejected a previous UN rights panel ruling that found Nasheed’s jailing was arbitrary and politically motivated.
Other opposition figures are also barred from challenging President Abdulla Yameen due to convictions handed down after rushed trials that were widely criticised for due process violations.
The ranks of high-profile figures jailed or exiled since Yameen took office now include two former presidents, two Supreme Court justices, two vice presidents, two defence ministers, leaders of opposition parties, several lawmakers, and the country’s chief prosecutor.
But the government insists there are no political prisoners in the country, dismissing the consensus among international rights groups about the “serious deterioration of human rights and the extremely limited space” for civil society in the country.
In late May, a UK parliamentarian called for more “robust action” to ensure inclusive elections in September.
US and EU have watched the Maldives' deteriorating situation for months, with Yameen stifling democracy. Now opposition leaders barred from presidential election. Statements like this have had little impact. It's time to shift to a more effective approach. https://t.co/RQa4MnIdlb
— Brahma Chellaney (@Chellaney) June 1, 2018
— Atul Keshap🇺🇸 (@USAmbKeshap) May 31, 2018