Fayyaz Ismail, Chairperson of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and former Minister of Economic Development, has been served with a police summons in connection with a corruption investigation tied to Road Development Corporation (RDC). This development, which comes amid intense campaigning for the upcoming parliamentary elections, has prompted concerns among observers over a possible escalation in efforts to stifle political opposition in the country.

Fayyaz, who has been an outspoken critic of the government’s alleged misuse of state resources, especially in the run-up to the upcoming parliamentary elections, finds himself at the centre of allegations involving the embezzlement of over MVR 11 million of state funds through the RDC. 

Despite the grave nature of the accusations, Ismail has pledged to cooperate fully with the investigation. He asserts that the charges are baseless and politically motivated, aimed at stifling opposition voices. “I can steadfastly assure you that I have not done anything that they are alleging,” he declared, signalling his readiness to face the allegations head-on.

The investigation, led by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in collaboration with the Police Economic Crime Department, uncovered that a total of MVR 14 million had been illicitly circulated among personal accounts of three individuals, with one receiving the bulk of the sum, MVR 11 million. The inquiry has brought to light the systematic violation of financial regulations, with funds intended for the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) being diverted for personal use through a series of 216 transactions.

The police’s investigation is not just confined to the financial misdeeds within the RDC but also extends to probing the potential involvement of senior government officials. 

As the investigation progresses, the political implications of Ismail’s summons cannot be ignored. This incident has intensified the ongoing discourse around the use of legal and investigative mechanisms as tools for political manoeuvring, raising questions about the integrity of democratic institutions and the sanctity of political dissent in the Maldives.

The police summons served to the MDP chairperson followed days of heated verbal exchanges between government officials and senior opposition figures.

In a recent post to X, Ismail hinted that the verbal assaults are now giving way to physical intimidation.

“We are worried about the increase in intimidation, harassment & violence against our candidates/campaign teams ahead of the #Majlis2024 vote. This is an alarming sign of return to pre-2018 electoral context, which was dominated by state use of fear against political opponents.
Incidents of electoral violence in the past 48 hours alone:
– Gaaf Alif Villigili Constituency President Rauf mobbed
– Sitting MP and MDP Candidate @Dhonbiley[Ahmed Haleem] was attacked in Faafu Feeali
– Campaign material of Kolamaafushi Constituency Candidate Sayyah, censored
In addition several hundreds of MDP members terminated from Gov owned Companies in the last few months. #MisraabuHamaMagah #VoteMDP,” Ismail said in a post to social media on Sunday.

Amid mounting tensions and electoral violence, political observers express concerns about a potential resurgence of the fear-driven political atmosphere that pervaded the country prior to 2018. They caution that such regression could undermine democratic integrity and exacerbate societal divisions, which have not fully healed since the presidential elections in September last year.

With the parliamentary elections on the horizon, the situation underscores the crucial balance between combating corruption and ensuring that such measures are not wielded as weapons against political adversaries.