The government has called on international partners to respect the Maldivian constitution and democratic processes following condemnation of the Supreme Court’s controversial removal of the Elections Commission (EC) chair and deputy chair.
The appeal was made in a statement released by the President’s Office last night welcoming parliament’s approval of a new EC member, which “enables the EC to function with the legally required quorum and hold the general elections scheduled for 22 March 2014.”
“Negative external reaction to judicial decisions of the Maldives challenges the domestic institutions and national processes, thereby undermining the constitution of the Maldives and hindering the ongoing process of democracy consolidation,” the statement read.
It added that strengthening of state institutions was “an ongoing process,” and noted that “high-profile” cases remained stalled at court.
“The government is always ready to work with interested external actors through a process of dialogue and cooperation based on mutual respect in working towards consolidating democracy in the Maldives.”
Since the adoption of the 2008 constitution that established a presidential system with separation of powers, the Maldives has “experienced a vibrant democratic process that has enabled the nascent system to flourish,” the President’s Office said.
The President’s Office statement also echoed calls by Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon earlier this month urging international partners not to “undermine our judicial system.”
The President’s Office also suggested that its submission to parliament of candidates to fill the vacancies in the commission demonstrated “the government’s unshakable commitment to the independence of the EC”.
“The government of Maldives is fully committed to ensuring the constitutionally guaranteed independence, professionalism, and integrity of the Elections Commission,” the statement read.
The President’s Office argued that parliament’s decision to approve Ismail Habeeb Abdul Raheem to the EC was “consistent with the Supreme Court verdict” dismissing the EC chair and deputy chair.
“In compliance with the verdict, the government proposed to the Majlis for consideration and to vote on the names of candidates to fill the remaining two vacant positions at the Elections Commission,” it added.
Despite parliament’s approval of Ismail Habeeb Abdul Raheem yesterday to replace former EC member Ibrahim ‘Ogaru’ Waheed – who resigned in October citing poor health – the opposition-majority independent institutions committee has declared that EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek and Deputy Chair Ahmed Fayaz remained EC members
The move followed a letter sent to President Abdulla Yameen, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz, and Attorney General Mohamed Anil by Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid contending that the dismissals were unconstitutional.
The letter – based on legal advice provided by parliament’s Counsel General Fathmath Filza – stated that the pair were removed in violation of procedures specified in both the constitution and the Elections Commission Act for the appointment and dismissal of EC members.
Article 177 of the constitution states that an EC member could be removed from office if a parliamentary committee established “misconduct, incapacity or incompetence” and “upon the approval of such finding by the People’s Majlis by a majority of those present and voting.”