The Commonwealth’s human rights and democracy arm has “expressed concern at developments” in the Maldives following the first round of elections.
The Supreme Court last week suspended the run-off election indefinitely after the third-placed candidate with 24.07 percent, Gasim Ibrahim, demanded the vote be annulled alleging widespread electoral fraud and declared “God Willing, Gasim will be President on November 11″.
The party of second-placed candidate Abdulla Yameen – the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) which attained 25.35 percent of the vote behind front-runner Mohamed Nasheed’s 45.45 percent – backed Gasim’s court case. Attorney General Azima Shukoor – formerly Yameen’s lawyer – also intervened against the Elections Commission (EC). A verdict is expected at the next hearing.
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) on Friday meanwhile noted that its election observation team had determined the September 7 polls were “a credible electoral process and met the standards for democratic elections to which Maldives has committed itself.”
“Ministers further noted that national and other international observers had concluded that the 7 September election was competently administered, and that the Maldivian people had been free to express their will through the ballot,” CMAG stated.
“In this context, CMAG Ministers expressed concern at developments since the declaration of results of the first round poll, with one unsuccessful party having filed a case with the Supreme Court to annul the first round of the election because of alleged electoral fraud, and the Supreme Court subsequently issuing an injunction to delay the second round of the election until a court ruling is delivered in that case,” the statement read.
“Noting that, under the Constitution of Maldives, a new President is required to be sworn in by 11 November 2013, CMAG Ministers urged all those concerned to ensure that the second round of the election is held at the earliest possible date so that this constitutional requirement is met,” the statement added.
Following CMAG’s meeting in New York on Friday, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird joined Maldivian pro-democracy demonstrators outside the Australian consulate.
Following the Supreme Court’s indefinite suspension of the election last week, Baird in a statement had warned the delay was “troublesome and can only lead to more instability”, and pushed for the Maldives to be put on CMAG’s formal agenda.
The Maldivian Foreign Ministry meanwhile put out a statement noting “media speculation” that the Maldives could be placed on the group’s agenda.
“The current political situation in the Maldives is one in which the Government is upholding constitutional supremacy, and the rule of law. Therefore, questions about placing the Maldives on the formal agenda of the CMAG are nothing more than speculations and have no basis,” the statement read.
Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Mariyam Shakeela represented the Maldives at the CMAG meeting, “and advocated on the need for reforming the Group in order to make the body a more effective and credible one that can help, not hamper, democracy consolidation in the Commonwealth member countries,” the statement read.
“The Minister also highlighted on the need for the CMAG to take matters in proper context, and not to over-react on delicate situations in member countries,” it added.
Following the meeting, Minister Shakeela “expressed pleasure about the deliberations and noted that as a member of the CMAG, the Maldives believes that the Group’s credibility can only be maintained if careful, considered, and impartial decisions are made on critical issues of importance relating to members of the Commonwealth.”
Deputy Leader of Gasim’s Jumhooree Party, Dr Ibrahim Didi, was meanwhile quoted in Sun Online as calling on CMAG not to “enslave or threaten” the Maldives.
“We are ready to leave the Commonwealth if necessary,” Sun reported Didi as saying.
“Some Maldivians think we will starve if we leave the Commonwealth. But this won’t happen. Some people think it is a big organisation and that if they cut assistance we will starve. The Commonwealth have only given us a few diploma courses,” he stated.
Indian High Commissioner summoned
The Maldivian government has also summoned Indian High Commissioner Rajeev Shahare to express what Sun Online reported was “discontent” over the High Commissioner’s meeting with Elections Commissioner (EC) Fuwad Thowfeek on Friday.
Shahare met with Thowfeek at the EC shortly before the building was surround by police, carrying orders to take over the building and ballot papers should EC staff continue with preparations for holding Saturday’s scheduled election.
Sun reported a Foreign Ministry official as stating that Shahare met with officials at 7:00pm on Friday.
“We had a meeting with the Indian High Commissioner [Friday] night, but we cannot reveal details of the meeting,” Sun quoted the official as saying.