5 Questions As The Maldives Go To Vote

New Delhi: 

The Maldives — a country of 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean best known for its white beaches and blue lagoons — will vote Sunday in a presidential election.

The archipelago of 260,000 people has seen political opposition suppressed and press freedom curtailed in recent years under its strongman leader.

Will the poll nudge the Maldives back toward democracy, or further its spiral into autocracy? Here are five things to know:

Who is the incumbent?

Abdulla Yameen, a once mild-mannered civil servant turned strongman president, is seeking a second term in office. 

The 59-year-old has ruled with an iron fist since 2013. The free press has been cowed, the military used to stave off impeachment, and most opponents — even Yameen’s own half-brother — have been jailed.

In a power struggle in February, Yameen launched what the UN called an “all-out assault on democracy”, declaring a state of emergency.

At its height, he sent soldiers to storm the Supreme Court and arrest judges who had ordered the release of political prisoners. Emergency rule was not lifted for 45 days.

Who are the opposition?

The opposition have fielded a joint candidate, the little-known Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, 54. But campaigning has been difficult, with many key figures in exile.

Mohamed Nasheed, an exiled opposition figure and former president, withdrew his candidacy after being barred from running. He was convicted of terrorism in 2015 in a trial widely viewed as politically motivated.

Do they stand a…

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