The Supreme Court’s decision to convict Elections Commission members for contempt of court will make the holding of the March 22 polls difficult the EU’s Election Observation Mission (EOM) has said.
“With less than two weeks remaining before the scheduled elections on 22 March, the mission recognises the time pressure that now weighs on the preparation of these elections, and the many associated challenges related to organising them in a manner that ensures they are credible, transparent, inclusive and fully representative of the wishes of all Maldivians,” read an EU EOM statement released last night.
Yesterday’s court verdict gave the relevant institutions six days to “make all necessary arrangements” for the scheduled parliamentary elections.
Meanwhile, a legal source has described the Supreme Court as now exercising a “dictatorship” over the other branches of government.
A Majlis statement released yesterday evening asserted that the procedures for appointing and removing members of the EC is detailed in the constitution and the Elections Commission Act.
“Because the People’s Majlis is tasked with the procedures on appointing and removing of members in that commission, we state: the Majlis can comment on the said Supreme Court verdict only after receiving and reviewing that document.”
The Majlis at the time said it had not received the court’s verdict, of which conflicting versions have been given in verbal and written forms.
The President’s Office has today called for applications from candidates wishing to fill the two commission places left vacant after dismissal of Chair Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice Chair Mohamed Fayaz yesterday.
The deadline for applications is 3pm on Wednesday, with application forms available on the President’s Office website.
Former Chair Thowfeek yesterday told Minivan News that he was left uncertain as to how the elections could now be carried out
“To fill our posts the president has to call for applications and select some names and send them for the parliament’s approval of more than fifty percent.”
“Very difficult for me to say anything because the Supreme Court reason given for our punishment is because of when I spoke about the impracticality of the 16 point guidelines.”
“When I talk about the practical difficulties, they say nobody is supposed to talk about the practical difficulties.”
Thowfeek’s concerns over what constitutes contempt of court following the court’s ‘suo moto’ proceedings against the EC are also evident in both the political and legal communities.
Asked to comment on the Progressive Party of Maldives’ position following yesterday’s ruling, MP Ahmed Nihan said that he was reluctant to talk about the court.
“In my opinion, since the verdict is connected to contempt of court, if we even say something there might be another trouble. I would have to really think twice before I go ahead and say anything about the Supreme Court”
“I’m an elected MP from Villimaafanu but still, knowing that the Supreme Court may think that it’s a contempt of law if I said anything.”
One local lawyer reiterated these concerns, wishing to share his thoughts about the case anonymously.
“Anyone speaking out against the court is promptly suspended. You can easily be blacklisted.”
He suggested that the censure of all but a few prominent and well-connected lawyers was deterring many from entering the Maldivian legal profession.
“In a sense, you could say that the judiciary is the dictatorship of the three powers and is acting outside of the mandate of the highest court in a country.”
“In a sense it’s the power of the parliament that the courts are usurping, the function of lawmaking”
The lawyer revealed that he had been researching the newly introduced ‘suo moto’ regulations used by the court to both bring and oversee the case against the EC.
“Suo moto proceedings are sometimes used in public interest cases – especially in jurisdictions such as India and Pakistan – or places where one would see the judge as someone who puts wrongs right, as opposed to a judge being a formal adjudicator.”