Both the Jumhooree Party (JP) and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) have filed cases with the Supreme Court requesting that tomorrow’s re-scheduled election not go ahead without all parties having signed the register.
The request for a new court order comes after both parties have thus-far refused to sign the amended electoral register for tomorrow’s election.
PPM MP Ahmed Nihan denied that his party had attempted to delay polling, claiming that the party still wished to have an election as soon as possible.
He added that the motion filed did not request any specific timeline, claiming that the party was trying to find a way that voting could go ahead as planned – positing the possibility of a public holiday to facilitate voting should tomorrow’s poll not go ahead.
Speaking to Haveeru, JP Lawyer Mohamed Haleem said they filed for the court order because they believed the EC would proceed with elections without getting voter lists approved.
“We have asked the Supreme Court for an order to hold elections after abiding by all procedures laid out in Supreme Court guideline number five. The Supreme Court has accepted the case,” he said.
At a press conference earlier today, Gasim explained that his party had doubts over the accuracy of the voter register, and would need at least two days to check the new lists.
“If an election is held tomorrow in violation of the Supreme Court ruling, it is without doubt an unlawful election. We cannot give space for such an election. And how can we support such an election?” said Gasim.
Gasim urged the EC to request further instruction from the court, after commission members had expressed a lack of guidance when faced with party’s refusing to sign the register.
“EC has failed to respond to the numerous complaints and concerns we have raised with them,” said PPM Deputy Leader and MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem at a separate press briefing. “It is impossible to hold a free and fair election until the EC complies with the regulations ordered by the Supreme Court.”
A meeting between the EC, party representatives and the Home Ministry at 9:00pm this evening reportedly ended in a stalemate, according to local media, with the JP and PPM insisting on time to verify the voter registry.
Candidate Mohamed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party, expressed its satisfaction with the new lists yesterday, noting a “neglibile” 0.61 percent margin of error. The frantic re-registration process saw over 71,000 forms submitted to the Elections Commission, after the Supreme Court opened at midnight on October 10 and ordered the commission to restart the procedure from scratch just days before the poll.
The revised voter registry is based on the Department of National Registration’s (DNR) registry and lists 239,198 eligible voters – 395 fewer than the 239,593 in the annulled September 7 polls that saw an 88 percent voter turnout.
Speaking to the press outside the EC this afternoon, Nasheed said an election by October 20 was “paramount” to the Supreme Court guidelines, and hence the EC must proceed with elections preparations and stand ready to hold elections as scheduled until the Supreme Court clarifies what the EC must do, or until the PPM and JP approve the list.
On October 7, Supreme Court annulled the first round of presidential elections held on September 7 after the third-placed JP filed a complaint alleging widespread electoral fraud, despite the polls being unanimously praised as free and fair by more than 1000 local and international elections observers.
The JP had narrowly placed third with 24.07 percent of the vote – only 2677 votes behind second placed PPM’s Yameen Abdul Gayoom. Front-runner Mohamed Nasheed received 45.45 percent of the vote.
The Supreme Court gave the EC a 12-day deadline to hold a re-vote, and delineated 16 guidelines which including compiling a new voter registry, a new re-registration process, and approval of the voter registry by all candidates contesting in the election.
PPM and JP representatives failed to turn up at the EC to approve the voter registry this morning. According to the EC, the JP had said the party would sign the registry when the commission presented a hard copy of the final voter list and verified five percent of over 70,000 re-registration forms.
International groups concerned by legal delays
Several foreign governments, including the US and UK, have meanwhile last week expressed concern about continued legal action being used to delay polls.
The US last week said it was “deeply concerned” about continued legal actions “that could further delay the Maldivian presidential election”.
“It is important that the [election] go forward unimpeded in a fair, inclusive and transparent way,” said Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department, Marie Harf, in a statement. “The basis of any democracy is for citizens to choose their government, for political differences to be decided at the ballot box in an environment free of violence and for election results to be respected,” the statement read.
In a statement today the US Embassy in Colombo said the United States “is concerned that the re-organised first round of the Maldivian presidential election, set for October 19, may now be postponed. Under the Constitution, a new President is required to be sworn in by November 11, 2013. Further efforts to delay the electoral process could undermine the will of the people to choose their representative.”
“The Electoral Commission has made concerted efforts to comply with the Supreme Court’s requirements for a new first round, including the re-registration of thousands of voters. Political leaders must come together to ensure that participatory democracy is not undermined and that free, fair, credible and inclusive elections can take place peacefully and in line with international standards,” the US stated.
The Indian government today said it was “deeply concerned” at the possibility of further delay.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague last week called on presidential candidates in the Maldives to respect the democratic process “and create conditions for free, fair elections.”
“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 said.
“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.
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.”