As speculations swirled about a cancellation, Public Service Media (PSM) has reiterated that the presidential debates have not been cancelled but they will be rescheduled and will now be a collaboration between the company and SanguTV.

PSM and SanguTV, in a joint statement issued this morning, announced that the debate, with technical assistance and expertise provided by the Maldives National University (MNU), will air on 2 September from 9 to 11 p.m., with all eight candidates having been invited and having confirmed their participation.

PSM had originally scheduled the debate, in collaboration with MNU, for 1 September between 9 and 11 p.m. However, with MDP hopeful and incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih requesting a postponement, the state broadcaster seemingly had little choice but to collaborate with the private channel SanguTV in order to salvage their public commitment. Solih has side-stepped the presidential debates before; while having gone on to win the 2018 presidential run-off, he had bowed out of the debate organised by PSM and MNU between him and the then incumbent Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

PSM had earlier said that while all candidates wanted to take up the state broadcaster on their initial request, some were unable to do so due to ongoing campaign activities – presumably in reference to Minister of Defence Mariya Ahmed Didi’s statements hinting that Solih would only appear on the debates if he had time to spare after his campaign activities. This is widely believed to be the reason that prompted PSM to ‘postpone’ the debate and collaborate with SanguTV’s planned event.

In an earlier statement to local media, SanguTV’s Managing Director, Ibrahim Waheed (Asward) said only five candidates, those contesting on political party tickets, had been invited to participate in the debate. Namely (with party affiliation); Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (Maldives Democratic Party), Mohamed Muizzu (People’s National Congress), Qasim Ibrahim (Jumhooree Party), Ilyas Labib (The Democrats), and Mohamed Nazim (Maldives National Party). This would have meant the public would, seemingly preemptively, be denied their right to hear from the three independent candidates, Umar Nasser, Hassan Zameel and Ahmed Farish Maumoon, creating an uneven, tiered, platform for candidates running for the same office.

This would have meant that the public would seemingly be preemptively denied their right to hear from the three independent candidates: Umar Nasser, Hassan Zameel, and Ahmed Farish Maumoon, thereby creating an uneven and tiered platform for candidates competing for the same office.

“It’s on, all eight will appear and will be LIVE on TV [PSM], jointly [with SanguTV],” said PSM’s Managing Director Ali Khalid, on a social media post, debunking speculation that the debate would go ahead with only the five, party backed, candidates alone.

As things stand, in line with the latest joint statement by PSM and SanguTV, all eight candidates have accepted the invitation to appear on the presidential debate to be broadcast on 2 September by the two collaborating stations. A venue, where the debate will take place, remains unconfirmed.