The government of India in a statement released on Thursday called on all Maldivian stakeholders to work towards holding a “free, fair, inclusive and credible election in a peaceful environment followed by a smooth transition on November 11”.
“As a close friend and neighbour, India has consistently supported the strengthening of democratic processes and institutions in Maldives. We believe that it is important that the stalled electoral process is put back on track,” the statement read.
“India strongly urges that the fresh elections dates stipulated in the verdict are adhered to so that a new President is elected in accordance with the wishes and democratic aspirations of the people of Maldives,” the statement added.
The statement comes at a time when the Elections Commission (EC) is preparing to hold the presidential election on October 19, after the previous election held on September 7 was annulled by the Supreme Court citing discrepancies in the poll.
Supreme Court judgement and its complications
The Supreme Court in its controversial judgement issued last week based its findings on a secret police report compiled by the court itself, with the assistance of police from the Forensic Directorate Department.
The court ruled the election had lacked legitimacy, as there were 5,623 irregularities in the voter registry. The secret report was not shown to the Elections Commission’s legal team.
The judgement also laid down a “guideline” consisting of 16 points which the court claimed were necessary to be followed by the Elections Commission to ensure a free and fair, credible elections. These included a provision stating that re-registration form should only be accepted if it had the name, address, identity card number and fingerprint of the person requesting re-registration, the person submitting the form as well as [the same information of] two witnesses.
However, in a later order by the Supreme Court last Friday, the Elections Commission was ordered to restart the process of compiling the voter registry for those individuals who wished to vote in a location other than their place of domicile, disregarding previous re-registration.
This led the Elections Commission and political parties to begin a last minute re-registration drive to ensure all voters who wished to vote in a different island than their island of permanent residence were able to do so. Unless re-registered, these voters will now not get the opportunity to cast their ballot.
The Elections Commission has meanwhile said that it expects at least a minimum 60,000 people to have registered within the short time period. The commission has also said that it has been working round the clock to ensure the elections happen as according to the schedule given by the Supreme Court.
The ruling to annul the first round also contradicted the positive assessments of more than a thousand local and international election observers.
No legal void even if no presidential elect is determined by November 11: Supreme Court
Meanwhile India’s latest statement notes that it is important to follow the deadlines set forth in the constitution and the law.
“We deplore the recent incidents of political violence and appeal to all sides to maintain peace and calm and to refrain from extra-constitutional measures,” read the statement.
“We encourage all concerned in Maldives to work for free, fair, inclusive and credible elections in a peaceful environment followed by a smooth transition on 11 November 2013, as stipulated by the Constitution of Maldives.
In this regard, we welcome the statement issued by the Maldives’ President condemning efforts to stop former President Mohamed Nasheed from running for office of President of Maldives,” the statement added.
However, the Supreme Court’s judgement now means that even if a new president was unable to be sworn in on conclusion of the presidential term on November 11, the “principle of continuity of legitimate government would override any repercussions faced by failure to adhere to constitutional deadlines.”
India in its statement also assured that its commitment to work with the Government of Maldives and its state institutions for success of elections.
The Indian statement also coincided with a similar statement by the United Kingdom.
The UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague stated that “It is imperative that there are no further delays and the elections are free, fair and inclusive, and that international observers are invited.”
“It is important now that the democratic process proceeds in accordance with the Constitution,” Hague stated, calling on presidential candidates to respect the democratic process “and create conditions for free, fair elections.”
Meanwhile an early day motion was tabled in the UK Parliament calling upon the House of Commons to support the UN secretary general’s call for a “credible and peaceful second round of voting” in the Maldives.
The motion, sponsored by MP Grahame Morris, also called upon members of the House of Commons to declare that it “condemns those who are seeking to prevent President Mohamed Nasheed from participating in any future elections in the Maldives; further condemns the perpetrators of the arson attack that destroyed the opposition-supporting Raaje TV station in Male’; and demands that the authorities take all necessary steps to bring the perpetrators to justice.”