The UN Security Council has been briefed on the situation in the Maldives, following the suspension of the run-off elections, ongoing protests and the submission of a “letter of concern” signed by senior military officers to their leadership.
UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco briefed the Security Council on Wednesday.
Citing a diplomatic source present at the briefing, AFP reported the senior UN official as warning the 15-nation council that recent democratic gains were “under threat” and that there was “potential for trouble”.
“We continue to follow the situation in the Maldives with concern in light of the mounting tension following the postponement of the second round of its presidential election,” said the UN Secretary General’s spokesperson Martin Nesirky, at a press briefing on Friday.
The UN Security Council Briefing came a day after Acting Foreign Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela addressed the UN General Assembly, and blamed “external forces” for “concerted efforts to prevent the emergence of an indigenous democratic system of governance in the Maldives [by] attempting to shape the outcome of, what is, an internal issue”.
“Democracy consolidation is not just about holding elections. Nor is it about having a democratically sound Constitution. In the Maldives too, we quickly found that changing the Constitution, or having a multi-party election, did not instill democratic values within our society,” Dr Shakeela told the UN.
The Supreme Court indefinitely postponed the second round of the run-off elections, initially scheduled for September 28, after third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim alleged electoral irregularities and declared “God Willing, Gasim will be President on November 11″.
The injunction was issued despite unanimous positive assessments of the polling by local and international election observers. The EC meanwhile contested the credibility of the evidence submitted to the court, observing that even if factual it was insufficient to impact the results of the first round. The subsequent delay of the second round was met with global concern.
Gasim was nonetheless joined in the case by second-placed Abdulla Yameen, and Attorney General Azima Shukoor, his former lawyer.
A second Supreme Court ruling issued at midnight prior to the vote ordered police and military to enforce the suspension, leading to police surrounding the Elections Commission (EC) and issuing an ultimatum. The EC relented, stating that it would be unable to hold the election without police and state cooperation, and noting that its staff had received threats of death and arson.
Now, two weeks after the suspension of the election, the hearing for the Supreme Court’s verdict has yet to be scheduled.
Protests resulting from the suspension of the election have led to other countries including the UK, China, Canada and Australia to upgrade their travel advisories to the luxury tourism destination, while port workers, customs officials, air traffic controllers and ground handling staff have staged strikes.
Senior officers of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) last week sent a “letter of concern” to Chief of Defence Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam, “over the Supreme Court’s order to delay elections, the failure of state institutions, and the possible politicisation of the military, and asking that unconstitutional orders not be issued,” according to one signatory.
The letter prompted a rapid reshuffling of the organisation, dismissals, suspensions, resignations, warnings to media and amendments to its regulations to to impose punishments on officers found guilty of inciting ‘upheaval and chaos’.
Former Brigadier General Ibrahim Didi, Male’ Area Commander at the time of the controversial 7 February 2012 transfer of power, meanwhile wrote a letter urging officers to “not give the opportunity to anyone who plans to rule this country by taking the laws to their own hands and override the constitution and undermine the constitutional framework of this country.”
“After November 11, 2013, regardless of who gives the orders and regardless of the situation, I sincerely urge the military to not let anyone take over the country in contrast with the provisions in the constitution, as this would have dire consequences,” he wrote.