Maldives president accused of plot to ignore election defeat

Opposition alliance says defeated leader is pressuring election commission to delay release of final vote tally

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 1:14pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 10:00pm

Maldives President Yameen Abdul Gayoom is working on how to stay in power despite having conceded defeat in this week’s election, the opposition alliance said Wednesday.

Joint opposition spokesman Ahmed Mahloof said that government officials say Yameen is planning to complain to the Maldives Election Commission about the conduct of the vote and pressure the commission to delay releasing the final results, due Sunday. Mahloof said Yameen is also trying to get police officers loyal to him to prepare intelligence reports saying the election was flawed.

“It’s serious. After conceding the election he is trying to play dirty,” Mahloof said of Yameen.

Election commission chief Ahmed Shareef confirmed that Yameen’s party lodged several complaints of vote irregularities.

“We will look into these concerns,” Shareef said, adding that there were no grounds for him to delay the announcement of the formal results.

Why are China and India so interested in the Maldives?

Provisional results released Monday showed joint opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih decisively defeated Yameen with about 58 per cent of the vote in Sunday’s election.

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Hussain Shihab noted that Yameen had conceded the election in a speech Monday. He said Yameen accepted the results and pledged to ensure a smooth transition when his term ends November 17. However, Shihab did not comment on whether Yameen’s stance has changed since then.

The Maldives’ military chief on Wednesday quashed speculation that Yameen would try to cling on to power, telling the nation that the armed forces would “protect the will of the people”.

“The people have spoken,” military chief Major General Ahmed Shiyam said in an appearance on a private television channel. Police chief Abdulla Nawaz issued a similar televised statement on the same day.

Earlier Wednesday, the opposition accused Yameen of delaying the release of high-profile political prisoners despite calls by his successor for their release.

Soon after his shock defeat, Yameen freed five prisoners. But scores of others – including Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, his estranged half-brother and former president – remain incarcerated.

The election outcome surprised many given opposition warnings that the voting could be rigged. The European Union did not send election observers because the Maldives failed to meet conditions for monitoring, and few foreign media were allowed into the country to cover the vote.

Maldives hits out at US over threat of sanctions if election is not ‘free and fair’

The US, which earlier threatened sanctions if the elections were not free and fair, urged calm while the election results were being finalised.

Maldives became a multiparty democracy in 2008 after decades of autocratic rule.

However, after Yameen became president in 2013 the country lost many of its democratic gains. He jailed almost all of his political opponents following allegedly flawed trials and forced some into exile. Yameen also consolidated power by exerting control over the courts, bureaucracy, police and the military.

Additional reporting from Agence France-Presse