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US warns Yameen against disrupting democratic process in Maldives

After accepting the results of the September election, in which Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party posted a decisive victory, Yameen mounted a legal challenge to the verdict earlier this week and alleged rigging and unfair practices.

world Updated: Oct 13, 2018 23:36 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Maldives,US,Yameen
A file photo of Maldivian President Yameen Abdul Gayoom casting his vote at a polling station in Male, Maldives. (AP)

The United States has warned of “appropriate measures” against anyone who tries to undermine the peaceful transfer of power in the Maldives and directly pointed to “troubling actions” by outgoing president Abdulla Yameen, who has challenged the election result in a dramatic turnaround.

After accepting the results of the September election, in which Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party posted a decisive victory, Yameen mounted a legal challenge to the verdict earlier this week and alleged rigging and unfair practices.

“The United States is concerned by troubling events in Maldives that threaten to undermine the will of the Maldivian people, including a Supreme Court complaint filed by president Yameen contesting the election results, and reports of serious threats to member of the election commission,” state department spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a video post on Twitter on Friday.

“The United States will consider appropriate measures (which might be in the nature of sanctions) against anyone who undermines democracy, the rule of law or free and fair electoral process in Maldives,” he said.

Palladino laid down the rules that the US and the international community will view with concern any attempt to undermine the democratic process, including delaying the inauguration scheduled for November 17.

The blunt message came from the US just a day after Alice Wells, the head of the state department’s south and central Asia bureau issued a similar but more conciliatory message in the nature of an appeal from Maldives which she was visiting.

“This was a decisive victory (for president-elect Solih) and President Yameen did the right thing when he acknowledged his loss and he said he would be a responsible opposition candidate,” Wells said of the September election results in an interview to a local TV network.

There is no doubt who won the election and the United States expects “President Yameen will accept the voice of his citizens”, the diplomat added.

Yameen had promised to, but has since gone back on his word.

He was widely expected to rig the elections himself in a bid to cling to power despite a massive groundswell of opposition to him and his policies, chiefly engineering a precarious economic dependence on China. The US had then warned of “appropriate measures” against anyone who undermined the free and fair election.

Yameen’s actions since the election cast a doubt on whether he will allow a peaceful transfer of power.

In her meetings with President-elect Solih and other members of the newly elected government, Wells had assured them of deeper and all-round US engagement with the Maldives, with enhanced economic cooperation and help in fighting corruption, improving governance in the larger context of America’s own evolving strategy for the Indo-Pacific.

First Published: Oct 13, 2018 23:27 IST