The presidential session will take place on 23 September. The opposition presents an unknown candidate. China continues to expand its commercial influence.
Malè (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The consolidation of an, authoritarian regime that oppresses religious and civil liberties, with an ever more decisive approach to China: this is the path towards which the Maldives is headed on the eve of the presidential elections, Sunday 23 September.
The re-election of the current head of state Abdulla Yameen Gayoom, a close friend of Beijing with whom he has signed a series of commercial agreements in the "Belt and Road" plan (the new Chinese Silk Road), seems increasingly obvious.
The election will take place amid an almost total lack of opposition, thanks to a series of arrests made in recent months during a constitutional crisis, when Yameen declared a state of emergency and silenced the dissent of the judiciary deemed hostile and of political opponents close to the former president.
The challenger Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is backed by a coalition of opposition parties, but he is a semi-unknown candidate in politics and has never held important positions. Many believe that it is more than anything else a puppet in the hands of exiled ex-president Mohamed Nasheed, the first and only democratically elected president of the tourist paradise in 2008, removed from a coup d'état in 2012.
Several international observers and foreign journalists have not received a visa to enter the country, although their names appear on the list of those accredited by the Electoral Commission. Among the excluded, the envoys of Le Figaro, AFP, New York Times and Devirupa Mitra, Deputy Director and India correspondent of The Wire, who laments on Twitter that no Indian journalist will cover the event.
India is precisely the most interested spectator of the presidential round, given its ambition to challenge Chinese hegemony in the Indian Ocean and the traditional support it has given Nasheed. Meanwhile, China continues with the granting of loans and the construction of large infrastructures supporting the new Silk Road. On September 18, a new 3.5 kilometer "track" was inaugurated, connecting Velana International Airport to the Malé capital (see photo 2). Called the "bridge of Sino-Maldivian friendship", Beijing spent 200 million dollars for its construction.
International observers highlight the lack of civil and democratic freedoms, which with a re-election of Yameen could be denied even more. Also in the archipelago there is no room for religious freedom: on the atolls there is sharia (Islamic law) and Sunni Islam is the state religion.