The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is holding a rally this afternoon in Male’ in a bid to galvanise supporters ahead of tomorrow’s constitutionally-scheduled yet judicially-contested run-off vote.
Whether that vote will happen appears in jeopardy after a tense stand-off last night between the Elections Commission – which said it intends to abide by the constitutional deadline for the poll – and the Supreme Court, which opened at midnight and ordered the police and military to forcibly halt all election preparations.
The Supreme Court order quotes Article 145 of the constitution giving it final authority on interpretation of the constitution, the law, “or any other matter dealt with by a court of law”, and Article 20, which orders the presidency, parliament, independent institutions, and security forces to obey Supreme Court decisions.
“Since it is stated clearly, it is illegal to disobey or challenge a Supreme Court order within the jurisdiction of the Maldives,” reads the order.
It calls for security forces to implement its order on Monday night (September 23) indefinitely suspending elections, and cites article 237 of the Constitution concerning the authority of the security services to “protect the nation’s sovereignty, maintain its territorial integrity defend the constitution and democratic institutions, maintain and enforce law and order, and render assistance in emergencies.”
The same article was cited by the Nasheed government ahead of its fateful arrest in early 2012 of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed, that led to the party’s ousting from power on February 7, 2012 at the hands of mutinying police and military forces upset over what they claimed were “unconstitutional orders”.
The order followed Elections Commissioner (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek’s declaration yesterday that the EC was preparing to hold elections as mandated by Article 111 of the constitution, requiring a run-off vote a maximum of 21 days after the first round.
Conflicting reports in the local press suggested the election had been cancelled, was continuing, that preparations were underway, or had stalled.
EC President Thowfeek told Minivan News on Friday morning that the Commission was meeting at 4:00pm today, and would be able to speak afterwards.
Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) vice presidential candidate and former Justice Minister under President Gayoom’s 30 year administration, Dr Mohamed Jameel, told Minivan News on Friday: “There will be no voting tomorrow”.
“There will be no voting tomorrow. It’s Nasheed’s madness that is going on, as he knows he cannot win an election free and fair,” Dr Jameel claimed, alleging that “[Nasheed] and the EC have colluded to rig the vote in the first round and that’s the reason why he now insists for voting without amending wrongs and fraud committed during the first round. There will be no voting tomorrow.”
The MDP meanwhile reportedly met this morning with international election observers present in the country, who unanimously praised the conduct and credibility of the first round round of polls.
Following the Supreme Court injunction last week the Maldives received strong support last from the UN, UK, US, EU, UN, Commonwealth, India, Australia and Canada for polls to go ahead as scheduled.
MDP Spokesperson MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News the party would protest from 4:00-6:00pm today, in line with election regulation prohibiting campaigning after 6:30pm prior to an election day.
“This is daylight robbery of people’s right to vote. I am still wondering if this is really happening,” Ghafoor said. “Without polls we’re not sure what will happen – it will be anybody’s guess. The Supreme Court will have called off the constitution and we will be in a constitutional vacuum. It will be another coup. The situation will be up for grabs – it will be the Wild West.”
“This is the time for the international community to intervene. The Maldives was a model transition to democracy, and we have bent over backwards to ensure a peaceful transfer. However the past leadership has now opening come out and contravened the constitution,” he said.
“The judges on the Supreme Court bench belong to Gayoom- this is obvious. They are remnants of the dictatorship. They took over the Judicial Services Commission (judicial watchdog), and brought all the old judges into the new judiciary under the 2008 constitution,” Ghafoor said.
He noted MDP’s new parliament majority, and parliament’s resolution last week calling for elections to take place as scheduled.
Should the Maldives fail to hold an election,”It will represent a big failure globally. We are a precursor to the Arab Spring. We had a perfect and unprecedented peaceful transition in 2008. That should be enough justification for the world to put its foot down.”
Nasheed had promised peaceful protests, he said, adding that the party did not expect a repeat of the February 8 police crackdown that hospitalised dozens of demonstrators.
“We have already crossed most barriers. This is the edge. This is a coup and the bottom line has now gone right up to the judiciary,” Ghafoor said.
“We have reason to have faith in the international community,” he said, stating that the party appreciated India’s position on the election: “they have hit the nail on the head.”
Responding on Wednesday to the Supreme Court’s indefinite suspension of the election, India’s Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid said India was “deeply disappointed and distressed that this should have happened.”
“Our understanding of the democratic system is that even if there are imperfections in the election system, those imperfections need to be addressed in a manner which is not destructive of the very process of elections,” Khurshid stated.
“It won’t be fair of me to comment on a court judgement, it is an interim judgement. I don’t want to comment on the contents of the judgement but certainly on the implications of the interference with an election. There is a window of time available because they have a November date by which a President has to be installed and I would urge all countries that care for democracy and who have a special cause of Maldives at heart, I would urge them all to use their good offices to ensure that democracy is preserved.
“If this is being done in the name of democracy, it is unfortunate. I think this is something that undermines democracy,” Khurshid stated.
“I would certainly hope and expect that better wisdom will prevail in this matter.”