Maldives government on Friday hit back at its main international partners' concerns over the upcoming presidential elections in the archipelago.
The European Union (EU) and some Western nations on Friday urged the Maldives to hold a credible and transparent presidential poll, after police blocked main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) from picking self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed as its candidate for the September election.
Police had seized ballot boxes in a bid to stop the primary which Nasheed was contesting unchallenged following a court order shortly after voting began on Wednesday.
But despite the court order and best efforts by police to stop the elections, voting in polling stations set up throughout the nation and four countries abroad had taken place until midnight on Thursday.
According to preliminary results released by the party, a total 44,011 had voted in the primary out of which 43,922 members had voted Yes.
However, elections commission had described the primary "illegal" having earlier barred Nasheed from contesting in the primary saying that his terrorism conviction prevents him from meeting the required qualifications to be president.
Nasheed lives in self imposed exile most recently in Sri Lanka after he was allowed to leave to the UK on medical leave in an internationally brokered deal following his jailing on terrorism charges.
Nasheed's 13 year prison sentence rules him out of the elections in September as per the constitution.
In a joint statement, the ambassadors of the EU, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States said they had followed the deterioration of the situation with increasing concern" especially in relation to the pre-election process."
“Legitimate opposition is a vital part of any healthy democracy, and it is critical that authorities respect fundamental freedoms, including freedom of assembly and speech,” the European Union said.
“We urge authorities to demonstrate genuine commitment to a credible, transparent, and inclusive election process.”
In response, the Maldives foreign ministry in a statement accused the opposition of "undermining the constitution to hoodwink the people and hype pre-election political rhetoric."
"Actions taken by the Government to stop such illegal and irresponsible activities and to maintain law and order and peace in the country should not be considered as actions aimed at curtailing or limiting fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution, including freedom of assembly and speech," the statement read.
"As friends of the Maldives, it is important for the international community, especially the proponents of the statement, to equally urge and encourage the opposition parties to refrain from such illegal activities and to genuinely demonstrate their full support and commitment to ensure the conduct of a smooth, transparent, credible and an inclusive elections process."
The Maldives government further reiterated commitment to holding a free and fair elections " in which all eligible candidates are granted an equal opportunity to contest."