EU makes u-turn on observing Maldives elections

The Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (ACRE) would observe the upcoming presidential elections in the Maldives, the archipelago's electoral watchdog said Saturday.

ACRE the third largest political grouping in Europe, consists of over 30 political parties from the region and are also represented in the European Parliament.

Speaking during a press conference on Saturday, Maldives' elections chief Ahmed Shareef said the alliance had accepted the commission's invitation to observe the crunch elections slated for later this month.

"We've received word that some EU parliamentarians, elections officials and council members would come to observe the elections," Shareef added.

The announcement came after EU along with the United Nations (UN) had rejected an invitation to observe the elections in the Maldives.

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.

The EU meanwhile has adopted a framework for targeted sanctions including asset freeze and travel ban on key government officials over the worsening human rights and political situation in the archipelago.

Foreign Affairs Council during its sit-down in Brussels adopted the framework for targeted restrictive measures against persons and entities responsible for undermining the rule of law or obstructing an inclusive political solution in the Maldives as well as persons and entities responsible for serious human rights violations.

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.