Maldives strongman Yameen challenges election defeat
He is trying to create an issue, says MDP spokesman
Colombo, Sri Lanka - Maldives strongman President Abdulla Yameen filed a legal challenge on Wednesday against his recent landslide election defeat despite international pressure for him to go quietly.
Yameen, whose main political rivals were either in jail or in exile for the September 23 vote but was unexpectedly beaten by a unity opposition candidate, had already conceded defeat.
But lawyers for Yameen’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) said that they are alleging the poll was rigged by the independent election commission in a challenge filed with the Supreme Court.
“We reviewed the numerous complaints filed by President Yameen’s supporters before deciding to file this challenge,” Yameen’s lead lawyer Mohamed Saleem said.
“So in light of that, President Yameen decided that the challenge must be filed for the rights of his supporters,” he added.
It was however unclear whether the Indian Ocean archipelago nation’s Supreme Court would agree to consider the challenge and the opposition expressed hope that it would be thrown out.
The election in the honeymoon paradise, which has seen a tussle for influence between India and China, was won by Ibrahim Mohamed Solih with 58.4 per cent of the vote. Solih was little known before the election but was backed, in a remarkable turn of events given the Maldives’ turbulent recent political history, by all opposition parties.
The United States and the European Union had threatened sanctions if the vote was not free and fair and if Yameen, 59, who has borrowed heavily from China for infrastructure projects, did not accept the result.
Yameen had reluctantly said he would leave office in November but he has been publicly urging his supporters to challenge the results.
Constitutionally, he can remain in office till November 17 when he has to hand over to Solih, barring any last minute court intervention.
Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, spokesman for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), said the challenge was ‘an attempt by Yameen to create unrest’ but that the Supreme Court would likely throw it out.
“Since the elections results were released, he has tried to get people to protest outside the Election Commission and was unable to get more than 25 to 30 people,” said Ghafoor, who like much of the opposition is based in nearby Sri Lanka.
“By going to court, he is trying to create an issue and get people to join his protests,” he said.
“Given the fact that the transition is going on smoothly and the international community has accepted the verdict of the people, we don’t think the courts will entertain this petition to overturn the results.”
Last week, former Maldives leader Mohamed Nasheed announced he would return home two years after going into exile.
He was barred from contesting the election won by his party’s nominee Solih, who defeated Yameen despite what critics said was a biased media and a rigged system.
Nasheed was the country’s first democratically elected president but was sentenced to 13 years in prison for terrorism in 2015, in a trial the UN said was politically motivated.
He went into exile a year later, after being granted prison leave for medical treatment in Britain.
Maldives President Abdulla Yameen filed a legal challenge against his recent landslide election defeat