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‘Return to democratic path’ before polls, India urges Maldives

India urged “credible restoration of the political process” before September’s presidential election.



India has expressed concern over the announcement of the Maldives presidential election with the country’s parliament and judiciary “not allowed to function in a free and transparent manner.”

“We have urged the government of Maldives to return to the path of democracy and ensure credible restoration of the political process and the rule of law before the elections are conducted,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesman of the external affairs ministry, told reporters Thursday.

“It is important that a conducive atmosphere is created for holding free and fair elections in the Maldives.”

The statement echoed calls for “credible, transparent and inclusive presidential elections” by the European Union, which recently reminded the Maldives of the EU Council’s warning to consider targeted measures.

But the government remains defiant over the jailing of President Abdulla Yameen’s opponents. In late June, it dismissed concern by Australia over the crackdown on opposition activity.

On Wednesday, the ruling party amended electoral laws to bar Maldivians who have sought asylum overseas from running for president. With the opposition boycotting votes, the changes were pushed through without the constitutional quorum needed to pass laws.

It targets former president Mohamed Nasheed and Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim, who have secured asylum in the UK and Germany.

The exiled leaders are also unable to contest due to widely condemned criminal convictions. The opposition coalition agreed last week to field Maldivian Democratic Party MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as its common candidate with a yet-to-be-announced JP running mate.

The government welcomed the main opposition party’s “decision” to take part in the polls and renewed invitations for all-party talks.

The presidential election is due to take place on September 23.

India’s statement Thursday came amid nosediving relations since the Maldives directly rebuked New Delhi over its “deep dismay” about a state of emergency in February.

Last month, the ruling party parliamentary group leader was denied entry to India as Malé imposed a deadline to remove two ‘gifted’ helicopters and denied refusing visas for Indian workers.

An Indian government source told The Print last Wednesday that the helicopters and crew were expected back in 10 days.

“The cold vibes from the Maldives, going colder still for India, are indirectly proportional to the warmth the Yameen’s administration is enjoying with China,” the paper observed.