The Maldives’ opposition party Wednesday raised concerns over conduct of the presidential elections on Sunday in a free and fair manner by the country’s poll body, which it alleged has deployed activists of the ruling dispensation for the poll duty.
President Abdulla Yameen, of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), is seeking a second five-year term in the Indian Ocean archipelago, a popular high-end tourist destination.
Yemeen had imposed a state of emergency in February after the Supreme Court quashed the conviction of nine opposition leaders, including the country’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Nasheed.
Nasheed, the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader, is currently in exile in Sri Lanka. He has been barred from contesting the Sunday’s polls.
The Maldives’ Elections Commission has appointed 107 PPM activists and members and tasked them with the official work on the election day, the MDP said here Wednesday.
“In yet another egregious example of bias, the Elections Commission has given the PPM activists official roles in administrating the voting, vote counting, and complaint procedures on election day. These PPM activists, as officials, will have sole discretion on how to adjudicate a complaint at the polling booth,” a MDP release said.
The opposition party claimed that the Commission had rejected its written complaint, demanding political activists be relieved of their poll responsibilities.
The MDP also alleged that the Commission was headed by a staunch Yameen loyalist, who was the General Secretary of Yameen’s former political party.
The commission had refused to allow political parties to use a copy of the final signed voter register. It is planning to use tablet computers to tally the vote, and ordering officials at the ballot boxes not to announce the vote until it is verified by the central Elections Commission.
These were clear breach of election law and precedence, the opposition claimed.
It further alleged that the use of tablet computers to collate election results from polling stations on election day will create an opportunity for rigging and fraud.
President Yameen is pitted against the joint opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
Ahead of polls, the government has sent to jail his main rivals after speedy trials for charges ranging from terrorism to corruption. It has also and introduced new vote-counting rules that observers say will prevent them from seeing individual ballot papers, leading to doubts about the legitimacy of the vote.