Four Mal­dives’ poll of­fi­cials flee to Lanka, cit­ing threats

Gulf Times - - ASIA/AUSTRALASIA -

In­tim­i­da­tion and threats drove four mem­bers of an election panel in the Mal­dives to flee the is­land na­tion, two of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day, a day be­fore its top court hears de­feated pres­i­dent Ab­dulla Yameen’s chal­lenge to his election loss last month. The tourist par­adise has been in po­lit­i­cal up­heaval since Fe­bru­ary, when a state of emer­gency was im­posed by Yameen, who ran the In­dian Ocean is­lands with an iron hand, crit­ics say, jail­ing po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents and Supreme Court jus­tices. Since Yameen lost his bid for re-election, the op­po­si­tion has been try­ing to se­cure a smooth tran­si­tion of power, due on Novem­ber 17. Four mem­bers of the Mal­dives Elec­tions Com­mis­sion have fled and three are in the Sri Lankan cap­i­tal of Colombo, leav­ing be­hind just one panel mem­ber, two of the Mal­di­vian of­fi­cials told Reuters on con­di­tion of anonymity. “We left due to threats,” said one, who asked not be iden­ti­fied, for fear of a risk to his life. Yameen’s party dis­missed the threat ac­cu­sa­tions, say­ing the election of­fi­cials left be­cause of pub­lic out­rage sparked by the leak of an au­dio record­ing about poll rig­ging. “So they say,” Mo­hamed Hus­sain Sha­reef, sec­re­tary gen­eral of the Pro­gres­sive Party of Mal­dives (PPM), said. “When in fact they left be­cause of pub­lic out­rage fol­low­ing a leaked au­dio about rig­ging. They are re­fus­ing to clar­ify.” The of­fi­cials’ ac­cu­sa­tions fol­low do­mes­tic me­dia re­ports of a com­plaint to po­lice by the com­pany that printed the bal­lots, say­ing the PPM sought to bribe its em­ploy­ees to pro­vide false state­ments that backed Yameen’s chal­lenge. Yameen’s party called the com­plaint “lu­di­crous”, say­ing it was a tac­tic to di­vert at­ten­tion from the court case. Yameen con­ceded de­feat in last month’s election af­ter an of­fi­cial count showed joint op­po­si­tion leader Ibrahim Mo­hamed Solih had polled 16.8% more votes in a sur­prise re­sult. The Election Com­mis­sion said the vote had been free and fair, with turnout of 89.2%. But on Wed­nes­day, his lawyers ap­proached the Supreme Court, say­ing sup­port­ers had com­plained about rig­ging of votes and fraud­u­lent bal­lot pa­pers.

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