COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — A newly formed opposition alliance said Tuesday it will seek to oust the Maldives's president and form an interim government to ensure elections scheduled in 2018 will be free and fair.
An interim administration is crucial to restore democracy and to "protect the many people being persecuted," Ahmed Naseem, a member of the so-called shadow government in exile.
"The primary objective of the Maldives United Opposition is to strive for the removal from power of the dictator in Maldives, through all legal and lawful means, and pave the way for a transitional administration as soon as possible," Naseem said.
The Indian Ocean tourist destination has a history of being governed by autocratic rulers, and many opponents of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom are in exile or have been jailed. The opposition says all of the country's independent institutions, such as the police, judiciary and bureaucracy, are under Gayoom's control.
He also has filled the elections commission with his activists, which undermines its independence and risks the trustworthiness of the electronic voting he wants to introduce, according to Naseem.
The government of the Maldives had no immediate comment.
The opposition parties formed their alliance earlier this month in Britain, where its leaders are exiled.
Leading the alliance are Maldives' former president Mohamed Nasheed and Gayoom's ex-deputy Mohamed Jameel. Others in the alliance are supporters of Gayoom's former defense minister Mohamed Nazim, another former vice president Ahmed Adeeb and opposition party leader Sheik Imran Abdulla, all of whom are in jail.
Nasheed was sentenced to 13 years in jail last year but was given asylum in Britain after traveling there for back surgery. Nazim is serving an 11-year jail term for possessing a firearm, and Adeeb was sentenced to 25 years in prison last week on two counts of terrorism charges, including an assassination attempt on Gayoom.
All these convictions have been decried for a lack of due process.
Nasheed won the country's first multiparty election in 2008, defeating Gayoom's half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had ruled the country from 1978.
Nasheed, however, resigned within four years of his presidency amid public protests for ordering the military to detain a sitting judge.
Much of the Maldives's democratic gains during that time have declined in recent years.