UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has called on presidential candidates in the Maldives to respect the democratic process “and create conditions for free, fair elections.”
“I note the Supreme Court’s annulment of the first round of Presidential election results in Maldives, despite the assessment by both international and domestic monitors that proceedings were transparent, fair and credible,” said Hague, in a statement.
“The Elections Commission has now confirmed that the first round will be re-run on 19 October. It is important now that the democratic process proceeds in accordance with the Constitution. It is imperative that there are no further delays and the elections be free, fair and inclusive, and that international observers are invited,” the Foreign Secretary added.
Hague urged presidential candidate “to act in line with the interests of the people of Maldives”, and expressed hope “that the process will enable the President elect to be inaugurated by 11 November, in line with the constitutional framework.”
The Foreign Secretary said he was “worried by recent reports of intimidation, violence, arrests and arson attacks which have taken place in the past days.”
“We are deeply concerned that Transparency Maldives, as a domestic election monitoring mission, should not be subject to an unwarranted investigation and threats of dissolution. I further call on all parties to take action to create conditions which are conducive to free, fair and transparent elections,” he added.
UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has previously said the country was “extremely concerned” when the Supreme Court ordered the second round of presidential elections delayed.
“I recognise the right of the Maldivian courts to ensure legitimate allegations of electoral malpractice are investigated appropriately. However, it is vital to avoid any unnecessary disruptions to the national electoral process, and for representatives from all sides to be represented during any legal proceedings,” Burt stated, prior to the court’s annulment of the first round’s results.
Presidential election should be “fully inclusive, credible and peaceful”: Commonwealth
The Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Maldives, Sir Donald McKinnon, has also “noted” the Supreme Court’s decision to annul the first round of the election.
“A Commonwealth Observer Group was present in Maldives from 31 August – 14 September and reported positively on the credibility of the electoral process,” McKinnon stated.
“I encourage all Maldivians again to ensure that the Presidential election is fully inclusive, credible and peaceful, so that the people of Maldives are free to choose their President from among those candidates already officially approved, and the inauguration can take place on November 11,” the Special Envoy urged in a statement today.
He also “acknowledged positively” the preparations being undertaken by the Elections Commission to enable a new election to be held on October 19, 2013.
The international community expressed alarm over the Maldives’ sudden suspension of the second round of presidential elections, initially scheduled for September 28. The election was later annulled by the Supreme Court in a 4:3 majority decision over allegations of electoral impropriety, despite unanimous positive assessments of the process by more than 1000 local and international election observers.
The majority verdict hinged on a secret police report alleging 5600 improper votes – evidence dismissed by the dissenting judges as the report was not shown to the Elections Commission, which was therefore unable to present a counter argument.
The judges also challenged the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, and the rationale for annulling the entire election, rather than just the allegedly affected boxes.
The petition was filed by third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim who sought annulment of the first round in which he received 24.07 percent of the vote, alleging that he received at least 20,000 more before declaring that “God Willing, Gasim will be President on November 11″.
Travel advisory updated
Protests and strikes followed the suspension of the second round of elections, prompting countries including the UK, Australia, Canada and China to issue travel advisories to their nationals visiting the luxury holiday destination.
The UK updated its travel advisory yesterday, noting that “the first round of the Presidential elections will now be re-run on 19 October. There have been frequent demonstrations in the capital, Malé, and on some non-resort islands. These have led to arrests, attacks on private and commercial property, including arson, and limited violence. Further demonstrations are possible. Friday afternoons are potential flashpoints.”