High Court to open on Friday to receive election-related cases

The High Court has today said that its registration department will be open on Friday night between 9pm-11:30pm in order to receive cases concerning the recent Majlis elections.

The court noted that according to laws it has to conclude cases concerning elections within 30 days of the final results being issued by the Elections Commission (EC).

All cases concerning the elections have to be submitted within 14 days of the result, which were announced by the EC on March 28 at 11:35pm.

The High Court has so far accepted cases concerning electoral issues in 10 constituencies so far, including Villingili, Mahibadhoo, Mid-Hithadhoo, Naifaru, Shaviyani Funadhoo, Thimarafushi, Kurendhoo, Meedhoo, Felidhoo, and Nolhivaram constitutencies.

The court has today concluded hearings into the lawsuit filed by the Jumhooree Party (JP) candidate for Naifaru constituency Ahmed Mohamed, who alleges that the independent candidate – whom he alleges had campaigned after the time was up – had sent misleading text messages to constituents.

EC lawyer Husnu Suood is reported to have told the court today that the complaints had been filed at the complaints bureau by the JP candidate, but that the case had not been concluded as the commission was still clarifying some information from government authorities.

He said the commission had noticed misleading texts sent to Naifaru voters in the name of JP candidate Ahmed Mohamed, noting that it was a very serious issue.

According to Haveeru, Suood told the court that if the accusations were proven, the candidate had violated the code of ethics for campaigning.

Also speaking at the court today, the JP candidate’s lawyer said that independent contestant Shiyam had campaigned outside of the regulated time period.

Shiyam is also accused on sending misleading text messages to constituents saying that the government coalition supported him, as did both President Abdulla Yameen and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Of the five independent MPs-elect, three – including Shiyam – have now signed for the the president’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

The JP candidate’s lawyer submitted two witnesses as well as the text messages in question to the court, which announced no further hearings would be held in the case unless the court needed to question witnesses or to clarify more information.

PPM candidate in Mid-Hithadhoo, Ibrahim ‘Hiyaaly’ Rasheed, has asked the High Court for police intelligence regarding his bribery allegations, while losing Maldivian Democratic Party candidate for the Shaviyani Funadhoo constituency alleges the late closure of a ballot box, out of hours campaigning, and bribery in his case.

Following the election, the EC revealed that a total of 115 complaints were submitted in writing to the national complaints bureau, including 18 concerning the voter registry and 33 complaints regarding negative campaigning, the behaviour of election officials, and campaigning during polling hours.

In its preliminary statement on the parliament elections, local NGO Transparency Maldives (TM) said elections were well-administered and transparent “but wider issues of money politics threatens to hijack [the] democratic process”.

TM revealed that a survey conducted prior to last year’s presidential election showed that 15 percent of respondents had been offered “money or other incentives” in exchange for their vote.

“Admissions about illegal activities such as this are usually underreported in surveys. TM’s long-term observation indicates that vote buying may be even more widespread in the parliamentary elections than other elections,” the statement read.