Maldives assures Australia of transparent presidential election

Maldives government has assured the Australian government of a transparent and just presidential election slated for September 2018.

The statement by Maldives Foreign Ministry comes as a direct response to Australia's remarks regarding the upcoming presidential poll.

Maldives had assured to Australia of the "unwavering commitment to work with the Elections Commission of the Maldives and all other relevant authorities of the State to ensure a free, fair and inclusive election in which all eligible candidates are granted an equal opportunity to contest."

In their statement Maldives government had noted the actions of some political actors and their continued efforts to hinder the democratic values of the island nation. Maldives Foreign Ministry in their statement assured to "protect and promote fundamental freedoms and ensure that the rule of law is implemented to the letter and spirit of the Constitution without any exception."

"It is vital that all political actors conduct their activities responsibly in accordance with the Constitution and all relevant rules and regulations of the country. In this regard, the Government notes its deep concern on the actions by some political actors which are in clear violation of the Constitution and the laws of the country and highlights that such actions undermine the democratic values and the rule of law," the statement read.

Maldives government had also asserted the fair and transparent conduct of previous elections including the parliamentary elections held in 2014 as well as the local government elections in 2014 and 2017 and every bi-elections that followed. The aforementioned elections were declared by international and local observers as "free, fair and credible" polls.

Earlier in a statement, the Australian government expressed grave concern over recent action taken by the government to undermine democracy and democratic institutions which threatens free and fair presidential elections in the country.

"As an Indian Ocean neighbour, Australia urges the Maldivian government to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Maldivians, including freedom of assembly and speech and the right to participate fully in election processes," the statement read.

"Australia calls in particular on the Maldivian government to release political prisoners and permit legitimate opposition activity, which is essential for any election to be credible."

Australia's comments came as the police continues to block-off main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) from campaigning for the elections.

Police had prevented MDP supporters from putting up posters in the capital Male on Monday after blocking a campaign run on Friday.

Police on Friday had arrested several prominent MDP officials over a campaign event for self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

MDP had planned a run as a campaign event at the running track in the capital Male on Friday afternoon. But police had blocked the event saying that the sports ministry "suddenly needed" the running track from 4pm to 6pm.

Several MDP officials including chairperson Hassan Latheef, his deputy Ali Nizar and MDP lawmaker Imthiyaz Fahmy had been taken into custody along with several supporters.

However, police had released them shortly after, MDP had confirmed.