Voting in the controversial Maldivian presidential election began on Sunday amid allegations of foul play against the administration, AFP reported. President Abdulla Yameen, however, claimed that his government is “committed to holding free, fair and transparent elections”, The Indian Express reported.
The Election Commission said voting was being conducted peacefully but local non-government organisations claimed their observers were refused entry into ballot centres and accused the panel’s officials of breaching protocol, local news channel RaajjeEnglish reported. The observers later said that the Election Commission had addressed their concerns in most of the ballot centres.
Yameen is running for a second five-year term, months after a state of emergency declared by him threw the island nation in a political crisis. Veteran lawmaker Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is representing the Democratic Party-led Opposition coalition after exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed withdrew his candidacy citing legal obstacles.
On Saturday, police raided Solih’s campaign office citing claims of corruption, Maldives Independent reported. “No court warrant was produced,” The Indian Express quoted a message from the Opposition as saying. “They raided the building citing illegal activities.”
In February, Yameen imposed a state of emergency in Maldives after the island nation’s Supreme Court reversed criminal convictions against nine of his opponents. The emergency proclamation, which stayed in place for 45 days, had strained New Delhi’s ties with Male, with Nasheed calling for Indian intervention.
The European Union and United States threatened to impose sanctions if the democratic situation fails to improve in the country.
International observers alleged that the rigged election will be declared in favour of Yameen who has close ties with China. Observers have criticised the ruling administration’s curbs on the Opposition and media and pushed for a nonrecognition of the polls, AFP reported.