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Maldives - 2018 Presidential Election

Maldives opposition claimed victory in the tense presidential election after its officials and an independent newspaper reported results from 90 percent of the ballot boxes which showed Ibrahim Mohamed Solih bagging 58 percent of the votes. Solih, candidate from the coalition of four parties, whose leaders are either in exile or imprisoned, claimed victory in a televised speech. "We have won this election with a comfortable majority," Solih told reporters in Male.

Solih joined the presidential race at the eleventh hour after receiving the backing of a coalition of four political parties, whose leaders were either in jail or exile. Among them were former presidents, Mohamed Nasheed and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, as well as tourism tycoon Qasim Ibrahim, who unsuccessfully ran for the presidency twice before. Despite joining forces, the four parties had significant ideological differences and their leaders had clashed fiercely for more than a decade. In 2008, Nasheed and Qasim formed an alliance to end Gayoom's 30-year rule in the country's first multi-party election. Their coalition, however, fell apart less than 100 days into Nasheed's rule. Qasim then teamed up with Gayoom in 2012 to oust Nasheed, in what the latter labelled a coup. "You cannot run an executive presidency as a coalition government," said Ahmed Nihan, an opposition legislator and close aide to Yameen, the former president. The Maldivian political class has not given up predatory behavior and unprincipled politics. The new political parties, their leaders, parliamentarians, the judges, and those who pump money into politics did not fully embrace democracy.

President Yameen, who assumed power in 2013 after a disputed election, Yameen pulled the Maldives out of the Commonwealth in 2016 and fostered closer ties with China and Saudi Arabia, who have funded the country's infrastructure boom.

President Yameen arrested or forced into exile most of the opponents who might have challenged him in the 2018 presidential elections. Yameen cleared the entire field of any rival who would threaten his re-election hopes. Most had been jailed on allegedly trumped up charges while others were forced to live in exile. So it remains highly unlikely that he would risk handing parliament control to the opposition. Maldives was due for presidential elections in September 2018, which is probably the reason why Abdulla Yameen was deeply distrustful of India.

The United Nations (UN) will ‘undoubtedly’ rule to allow Former President Mohamed Nasheed to run in the 2018 presidential election, United Nations Special Rapporteur Dr Ahmed Shaheed said 03 January 2018. Shaheed, the Former Foreign Minister, said the UN’s Human Rights Committee will vote in 2018 to allow Nasheed to run in the election. He said that President Abdulla Yameen would have to stop the election after the ruling. Every citizen has the right to pressure the government, he said, adding that a country that barely has a population of 400,000 cannot remain stable for long after violating international standards for human rights.

Despite Shaheed’s optimism, the Maldives government has ignored the ruling from the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to release Nasheed and Former Defense Minister Colonel Mohamed Nazim. Shaheed told RaajjeMV that Maldives is required to follow the HR committee’s ruling, as the country has signed an agreement to do so.

The Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) engineered a constitutional dispute case in late 2017, asking the Supreme Court to disqualify MPs who defected or violated party whip-lines and or were formally removed from their respective party. The three judge bench hearing the case unanimously ruled in favor of the government [ a verdict that opposition figures found highly debatable]. The rebel MPs had scrambled to leave PPM before the verdict but the party had refused to allow the lawmakers to leave saying that their requests can only be processed after their respective disciplinary hearings are concluded. Ultimately, the MPs were axed shortly after the contentious ruling and elections commission had declared as many as a dozen parliamentary seats vacant.

Defense Minister Adam Shareef Umar warned that anti-religious sentiment usually spread near every presidential election. Speaking at the 22 December 2017 ceremony on the anniversary of the day Maldives embraced Islam, the Defense Minister said people should be aware of outside forces working to spread other faiths close to the election.

Minister Shareef said Maldives will not accept democratic values that contradict Islamic doctrine, and called on the citizens to conduct a ‘jihad’ against those who spread faiths other than Islam in the country. He also described social media as the worst threat to maintaining the faith in Maldives, and called on parents and teachers to prevent children and the youth from being misled by anti-religious posts online.

Gan MP Fayyaz Ismail said 02 January 2018 that a recent online RaajjeTV poll has shown that holding a primary election to pick a single candidate for the opposition coalition parties is possible. A RaajjeTV poll showed that most of voters preferred Jumhooree Party leader Qasim Ibrahim as the single candidate for the 2018 Presidential elections. The poll was opened for a 24-hour period and 10,376 twitter users had cast their votes.

Qasim won with 43 percent of the votes. Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s de facto leader Mohamed Nasheed won 25 percent of votes, while Adhaalath Party (AP) leader Imran Abdullah claimed 30 percent of votes. Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom recieved two percent.

President Abdulla Yameen refused to obey a court order that released nine jailed dissidents and reinstate opposition lawmakers, deepening the ongoing turmoil in the Maldives. The Supreme Court in a shock ruling on 04 February 2018 asked Yameen to comply with its order, saying the dissidents must be released because their trials were politically motivated and flawed.

The opposition now had a majority in the 85-member house as the court ruling also reinstated 12 members of parliament who were stripped of their seats last year. But two of the 12 were arrested at the airport shortly after they returned to the Maldives after spending months in exile.

The court's ruling also opens the way for exiled former leader of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed to run for president after the Supreme Court quashed his conviction for terrorism. Nasheed - who was barred from contesting any election after a controversial 2015 conviction on a terrorism charge - described Yameen's refusal to obey the Supreme Court as a "coup". The United Nations, European Union, and several foreign governments - including India, the US and UK - urged Yameen to comply with the Supreme Court's order. But the strongman leader remained defiant, suspending parliament, ordering the arrest of two returning opposition defectors and staging a rally with hundreds of supporters in the capital Male.

"We will hopefully come up with a new Speaker of the House and we will then investigate other institutions and also move towards a free and fair election. This is election year in the Maldives. I can contest and I will contest and we will hopefully win it again," said Nasheed. Yameen had jailed almost all political oppositionists since 2013, when he won a controversial run-off election against Nasheed.

The Maldives government declared a 15-day state of emergency on 05 Feburary 2018 as political tensions on the island nation continued to intensify with reports security forces stormed the Supreme Court and locked the justices inside. The daughter of the country's former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said soldiers broke through the door of their home and seized her father and husband. Soldiers in riot gear surrounded the parliament building in the capital Male soon after the opposition petitioned parliament to remove the South Asian island's attorney-general and its chief prosecutor.

Yameen's despotism left pockets of space for political and civic activism. Parties still functioned; there was still part of the media that can be critical; there was some freedom of expression, especially on the internet; and there was a sense of a vibrant public sphere.

However, the effect of ever-changing laws and hijacked institutions was that even those freedoms can be taken away whenever Yameen wanted. This type of regime is what Australian political thinker John Keane calls "new despotism": governments, "backed by democratic rhetoric and election victories, massively expand their executive powers by means of economic nepotism, media controls, strangled judiciaries, dragnet surveillance and armed crackdowns on their opponents".

Opposition figure and long-time Member of Parliament, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is backed by Nasheed's MDP and its unholy alliance with Jumhooree Party and Islamist Adalat Party (which went against him in 2012) and with his former rival, Gayoom, who was pushed out of Gayoom's Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM). This coalition was held together by their common enemy - Yameen. If they won and Solih came to power, there was no guarantee that they would stick together. In fact, the recent past showed that these political parties are quick to abandon their alliances whenever their narrow self-interest is in danger.

Voters in the Indian Ocean island nation complained of long delays as they queued in snaking lines across the country to cast their ballots. Some reported waiting periods of more than eight hours. Polling closed in some parts the Maldives for the country's presidential elections after the elections commission extended voting time by three hours because of "extraordinary high turnout", an official said.

Without credible polls, it was unclear who will win and observers said they did not expect the vote to be free or fair. The government had denied entry to most foreign election monitors and journalists. Only a handful were let in. The European Union said it did not send observers because the country failed to meet basic conditions for monitoring.

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Page last modified: 18-11-2018 19:06:19 ZULU