Maldives govt allays int'l concerns over pres polls

Maldives government on Tuesday moved to allay concerns aired by the archipelago's international partners over the upcoming presidential elections.

Several countries including the United States, India and the European Union (EU) have continued to cast serious doubts over the September elections.

Some of the concerns include the question marks surrounding the country's electoral watchdog, state institutions and the government's refusal to release jailed political leaders.

Responding to the concerns, Maldives foreign ministry in a statement the presidential election would be held as scheduled on September 23, refuting opposition led accusations of possible plans to delay the crunch elections.

"Campaigning for the election is progressing smoothly in a peaceful environment and the Government is working closely with the Election Commission and all relevant stakeholders to ensure that the election is free, fair and credible," the statement read.

The statement also pointed out that similar to past two elections held since the inception of multi-party democracy in the Maldives - both declared free, fair and credible by international observers, the country's elections commission has extended invitations to several international stakeholders and partners to observe next month's elections.

"Hence, the Government believes that there is no room to doubt that the Presidential Election scheduled for September to be an exception," it said.

The crunch elections is set to be a two horse race between incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom who is seeking re-election and opposition alliance candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih who has been backed by Yameen's main political rivals including the now jailed former presidents Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Mohamed Nasheed.

Unlike in previous elections, the presidential race would be decided in the first round and is widely seen more as a 'referendum' with a straight choice between the opposition and the government more than an election.