'Free and fair election cannot be held if opposition candidate is jailed'

The opposing Progressive Congress Coalition has said a free and fair election cannot be held if the opposition candidate is jailed.

On December 25, 2022, the Criminal Court found the former president of the Maldives and leader of the opposition coalition, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom, guilty of bribery and money laundering and sentenced him to eleven years in jail. The opposition has been protesting the verdict in a series of protests. Yameen cannot contest the presidential election until a higher court quashes the verdict.

In response to a question by AVAS following the Election Commission's announcement of the presidential election date, PPM's Spokesperson, Heena Waleed, said the party had no comments on the date set by the Elections Commission. The date was determined in accordance with the Constitution, she said.

Heena said whatever the date the election is held, it is not possible to hold a free and fair presidential election with the opposition candidate in jail.

"The opposition candidate President Abdulla Yameen is in jail on an unlawful sentence," Heena said.

Heena said it would not be fair to hold the presidential election by obstructing the PPM's activities in response to their leader's jailing.

"We call for President Yameen to be released immediately. We also call on the President to stop using state resources for his campaign," Heena said.

The PPM spokesperson further said the PPM wants the opposition party to be given fair treatment and for the opposition candidate to be released from jail. The election should be held with equal opportunities, she said.

"It should not be done any other way. We would not support doing it any other way," she said.

This year's presidential election is scheduled for September 9. If the election goes to the second round, the vote will be held on September 30.