The Maldives presidential poll will be held on September 23, the chair of the Elections Commission said late Thursday, declaring this year’s ballot would be the most transparent ever.
Ahmed Shareef said observers would be allowed to monitor the vote and that electoral representatives from eight countries, the European Union and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation would be invited.
“Unlike previous elections this one is going to be fully trusted by the people. We will not withhold any information other than the information that has to be kept secret legally,” he said.
This year’s poll is being held amid fierce criticism of civil and political rights abuses by President Abdulla Yameen’s government, with opposition leaders either in exile or behind bars and a crackdown on the media and activists.
Shareef said the EC had asked parliament to amend laws as ordered by the Supreme Court in a ruling issued after the controversial annulment of 2013’s presidential election first round.
He is a loyalist of Yameen who had campaigned for his re-election prior to his EC appointment and has been criticised as a partisan appointee to the EC, which is meant to be independent.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s candidate and former president Mohamed Nasheed accused Shareef’s commission of delaying invitations to foreign election observers.
“The Maldives EC cynically waited until the last possible moment to invite foreign election observers, knowing that they can’t come without proper prior notice. MDP primaries proved EC has zero credibility. EC must change to have a genuinely free, fair and inclusive election,” Nasheed tweeted.
He landed the MDP’s presidential ticket late May, after winning more than 40,000 votes in a primary in which he was the sole candidate and as police attempted to block the primary.
The EC has declared the MDP referendum unlawful over Nasheed’s ineligibility to run for office with a 13-year prison sentence.
Nasheed was found guilty of ordering the “abduction” of a judge after a widely condemned trial in March 2015 and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
2018 Presidential Election Schedule
June 10: Publication of eligible voters registry
June 10 – June 20: Accepting complaints about correcting information on the voter’s registry
July 15: Applications open for standing in the the election
July 17: Re-registration of voters who will not be voting in their registered islands
August 9: Candidate number draw for eligible candidates
August 31: Finalizing voters list
September 23: Election day
This article has been corrected in the schedule