Maldives elections unlikely to improve religious freedom

Known for its golden sands and crystal waters, the Maldives is perhaps not the first country that springs to mind when one considers locations lacking in religious freedom.

However, for more than 10 years the island chain in the Indian Ocean, south-west of Sri Lanka, has been in the top 10 of Open Doors International’s World Watch List, which details the countries where it is hardest to practise Christianity.

Tomorrow (September 7), the country’s almost entirely Islamic population will head to the polls for only the second two-party election of Maldivian history. Yet regardless of the outcome, little improvement is expected in religious tolerance.

The incumbent president, Mohamed Waheen Hassan, has been in power for just 18 months, since his prime opponent tomorrow, Mohamed Nasheed, claims he was forced to resign in February 2012. Hassan was vice president to Nasheed, who claims he was overthrown in a coup. Hassan denies this, saying Nasheed chose to resign.