Brussels: A report on the current political situation in the Maldives, recently published by a European think tank, has deemed the political situation in the island nation under President Abdulla Yameen as "worse than had been previously understood and continues to deteriorate".
South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF), a Brussels-based think tank, conducted an independent fact-finding mission on 16 August in collaboration with the Women's Economic and Social Think Tank (WESTT), in light of the state of emergency imposed on 5 February by Yameen, EP Today reported.
Three Members of European Parliament, Tomas Zdechovsky, Maria Gabriela Zoana and Ryszard Czarnecki, along with two European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Members, Madi Sharma and Henri Malosse, constituted the delegation for the fact-finding mission, ahead of the 23 September presidential elections.
After the imposition of emergency in the South Asian Archipelago, the Chief Justice was arrested and various opposition leaders, former presidents and their families were imprisoned. Several political leaders fled the country to live in exile, and are forbidden to contest the upcoming presidential elections.
The report suggests that because no international election monitoring bodies will be overseeing the elections, "concerns are rising regarding the potential to hold free and fair elections in the country," adding that, "There is mounting evidence that the election process is already being manipulated".
The report also notes that there has been a "manipulation and intimidation of voters, including re-registration of voters on islands not in their vicinity or even overseas in London, Singapore and Sri Lanka, making their ability to vote a serious challenge".
A number of electoral laws were amended by the government, with only 34 out of the 85 Members of Parliament voting for the passing of the amendments, making it unconstitutional, the report added.
"President Yameen will use all possible means, including force, manipulation, and fraud, to remain in power. He is confident due to his vast financial resources and support from the business class, the police, and military, judges, and Islamic clerics," the report read.
The document has made recommendations to the international community pressing for a free and fair election, adding that the EU should announce a ban on investments and tourism, "should the federal elections prove to be fraudulent."
The report further states that opposition fears that the EC might rig the polls and the President can suspend all laws and the Constitution. Should that happen, the EC can move the ballot boxes to a central location for the vote counting, reports EP Today.
"All actions from international partners wishing to uphold democracy through free and fair elections must insist on transparency and redress for those who have abused the true voter wishes," the EP Today quoted the report as stating.
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