Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has revealed that their joint opposition's presidential candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (Ibu) will not be taking part in the presidential debate organized by Maldives National University (MNU).
Ibu had previously expressed interest in taking part in the debate along with President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom. However, the opposition candidate's campaign spokesperson Mariya Ahmed Didi said on Thursday that Ibu is no longer interested in MNU's debate.
Mariya said that ruling party, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), had declared they will be using state resources in campaigning and have been doing just that. She added that on the other hand, the opposition are not allowed to put up flags or posters, and that their campaign has been facing several obstacles imposed by the police.
She went on to say that under such circumstances, it is unlikely that any government institution will be functioning independently. Considering the actions of the state and President Yameen, Mariya stated that they have no assurance that the debate held by MNU will be an independent one.
"When we initially expressed interest in the debate, we told them that it will depend on Ibu's campaign trip. We asked them to notify us beforehand so we can manage his time accordingly. We told the same thing to Raajje TV when they approached us for a debate too. But we still did not get a confirmed date or time," said Mariya.
Mariya also noted that the president had declined local media channel Raajje TV's invitation to their debate. She claimed that the fact that President Yameen said yes to one debate and no to the other showed that he lacks integrity and did not want to have an independent debate.
Even prior to declining the invitation by MNU, the opposition had expressed concerns as MNU's debate is to be broadcast by Public Service Media (PSM). The opposition has accused PSM of promoting President Yameen and his campaign while not giving any such chances to Ibu.
MNU had stated that the questions for the candidates and all the arrangements related to the debate will be organized by the university.
The university's Vice Chancellor Ali Fawaaz had said that the debate aims to provide information to the people about the candidates before making an informed choice in the upcoming presidential election.