New Delhi: India on Thursday urged the Maldives to return to democracy and restore credible political processes before national polls slated for September.
Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said New Delhi was carefully monitoring the situation in the Indian Ocean atoll nation that has seen spells of political uncertainty since the 2012 resignation of then president Mohamed Nasheed, who was elected to office in 2008.
“We have been closely following the evolving situation in the Maldives. The announcement of elections in the Maldives at a time when the democratic institutions including the Majlis (Parliament) and the judiciary are not allowed to function in a free and transparent manner is indeed a matter of concern," Kumar said.
Kumar was referring to the spell of uncertainty in the Maldives that started in February when President Abdulla Yameen imposed a state of emergency to annul a Supreme Court ruling that quashed the convictions of nine opposition leaders, including Nasheed.
During the 45-day emergency, Yameen’s administration arrested former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the chief justice, another Supreme Court judge and a Supreme Court administrator on charges of trying to overthrow the government. New Delhi is concerned about the developments. However, it has refrained from condemning the political developments wary of the Maldives growing closer to India’s strategic rival China, which is one of the largest foreign investors in Maldives. “We have urged the government of Maldives to return to the path of democracy and ensure credible restoration of the political process and the rule of law, before the elections are conducted. It is important that a conducive atmosphere is created for holding free and fair elections in the Maldives," Kumar added.
The Maldives opposition has accused the government of locking up most of the leaders who could effectively challenge Yameen’s bid for re-election, a charge the government denies. President Yameen’s administration has rejected a demand by a UN human rights watchdog to let Nasheed stand for the presidential election.
On Wednesday, the Maldivian parliament barred from contesting elections for 10 years those Maldivians who have sought asylum overseas or relinquished dual citizenship. A report in the Maldivian Independent English language paper said the restriction was imposed in amendments to electoral laws passed at Wednesday’s sitting of parliament, and it was aimed at former president Nasheed and other political leaders like Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim, who have secured asylum in the UK and Germany. Neither will be eligible to contest polls until 10 years after relinquishing asylum.
The Maldives, home to 400,000 people and best known as a tropical paradise for tourists, has experienced political unrest since Nasheed was forced to quit amid a mutiny by police in 2012.