Following the Supreme Court’s removal of Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz from their posts, responses have come from across the political spectrum.
While coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP) leader and tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim has spoken in support of the court’s decision, senior members of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have condemned the verdict, with former President Mohamed Nasheed appealing to the public to stage demonstrations.
Meanwhile, the government has announced that it will proceed with setting in place arrangements to ensure that the upcoming Parliamentary elections are held on schedule on March 22.
Verdict must not be challenged: Gasim
Gasim has stated that no one holding any state position should challenge the verdict of the apex court, which he has claimed demonstrated that no one in any state position can act against any decision of the Supreme Court.
Speaking at an event held at the JP’s central campaign office Kunooz on Sunday night, he asserted that the verdict was the direct result of the actions of EC President Fuwad Thowfeek. Fuwad himself had admitted to having acted against the orders of the Supreme Court, he added.
“The reason why I am praising the decision of the Supreme Court is because, in order to maintain national unity and peace, this verdict has demonstrated that no one can act in breach of the rule of law,” Gasim is quoted as saying in local media.
Gasim stated that the final decisions lie with the apex court, and no one – including the parliament – can challenge these decisions. He called upon those displeased with the court’s verdict to “adopt the way of peaceful dialogue instead of taking to the streets and protesting”.
Nasheed calls on citizens to protest
Speaking at a political rally in the island of Dhihdhoo on Sunday night, former President Mohamed Nasheed described the verdict as “unconstitutional” and called on citizens to come out in protest.
He stated that it was the saddest moment in the constitutional history of the Maldives, accusing the apex court of “undermining the constitution which consists of high hopes of the citizens” and of “stripping independent commissions of their powers”.
“Tonight we are seeing the Supreme Court undermine the constitution of the Maldives by leaving the EC powerless and sentencing its president and vice president to jail.”
“It is the parliament that is tasked with oversight of the work of the EC. The constitution very clearly states this. Tonight we have seen [the Supreme Court] attempt to undermine the hopes of a large number of citizens”.
Nasheed stated that the new constitution of the Maldives was set in place and accepted by the people due to the bitter experiences that they had previously known.
“It was because injustice, discrimination, and inequality had settled among us to alarming extent. The Maldivian people wanted to enjoy the country’s richness to its full extent, Maldivians wanted to enjoy the certainty of having human rights safeguarded at its fullest. They wanted justice to be served in the Maldives.”
“If the elections are not held in a free and fair manner, then the resulting government will not be free or fair either,” Nasheed stated, calling on citizens to get strength from one another, to overcome their fears, and to come out in protest against the Supreme Court’s decision.
Nasheed said that the MDP needed to decide whether it will participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections. A meeting of the party’s National Council will take place at 9pm tonight.
Party Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik questioned whether the court had the authority to remove members of the EC, whilst Spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor described the decision as “evidence that we will not see a free and fair election in this country”.
Will take necessary action to implement SC verdict: Government
The government has meanwhile stated that it will take all necessary action to implement the Supreme Court verdict without delay.
“The government will not criticize or challenge this verdict. In the current system of governance, the executive’s role is to implement whatever responsibilities that such an order places on us without further delay. We will proceed to do just that,” President’s Office Spokesman Ibrahim Muaz Ali stated.
The president will work on sending names for the vacant EC posts of the parliament as soon as possible, he said, noting that the court’s verdict ordered the elections to go ahead on schedule.
“The government believes that the parliament should also cooperate in such matters. The sad thing is that this is not the spirit we are seeing from the parliament,” Muaz stated, expressing concern about the delay in parliament in appointing a member to the previously vacated EC position.