The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) should not participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections if the Supreme Court exerts undue influence over the Elections Commission (EC), former President Mohamed Nasheed has said.
Speaking at a campaign event in Male’ last night, Nasheed contended that the Supreme Court’s summoning of EC members over alleged contempt of court was an attempt to “intimidate” the independent institution.
The apex court, in collusion with the ruling coalition, was planning to “play the same game they played in the presidential election,” the MDP’s former presidential candidate alleged, adding that the ‘Progressive Coalition’ was certain of facing defeat.
“In my view, an election conducted with the Supreme Court exerting influence over the Elections Commission to deliberately commit electoral fraud or rig the vote will not be a legitimate election – in my view, MDP should not participate in such an election,” Nasheed said.
Neither the international community nor the Maldivian public would accept general elections boycotted by the MDP, Nasheed said.
Nasheed referred to new regulations (Dhivehi) formulated by the Supreme Court last week to specify procedures for initiating cases on their own accord, correctly predicting that the court was planning to prosecute EC members.
“If the Supreme Court delays the election, meddles with the voters list and commits fraud after summoning the Elections Commissioner tomorrow [Wednesday] and intimidating Elections Commission members, I would say that the damage to our democracy and our country from participating in such a election would be greater [than not participating],” he said.
Nasheed claimed that the MDP lost last year’s presidential election because of “fraud and deception”.
“In my view, if we give up the Majlis election the same way, we are losing our future, the future of our children and children’s children,” he added.
A free and fair election in which the public has confidence is the foundation of democratic governance, Nasheed stressed.
“When there is no justice in voting, everything loses legitimacy,” he said.
Nasheed concluded his remarks by calling on the Supreme Court not to “muddle the entire future and hope of this nation.”
Meanwhile, appearing on MDP-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV last night, MP Ali Waheed claimed that the government was conspiring to postpone the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22.
The MDP parliamentary group’s deputy leader said he had learned of plans to delay the polls in certain constituencies in a bid to ensure that the ruling coalition secures a majority.
“If they carry out these efforts again this time, we will bring the whole country to a halt,” he warned.
Last year’s presidential election was marred by repeated delays, cancellations and police obstruction.
On October 7, the Supreme Court annulled the results of the first round of the polls conducted on September 7 in a controversial 4-3 decision – citing a confidential police report – despite unanimous positive assessment of the polling by more than a thousand domestic and international election observers.
While the secret police report alleging irregularities – which was not shared with the EC’s defence lawyers – was dismissed by a UN expert review, the credibility of the evidence cited by the apex court was also questioned by the Human Rights Commission of Maldives.
Following the first round in which Nasheed emerged the frontrunner with 45.45 percent of the vote, third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim sought annulment of the results alleging widespread electoral fraud.
Pending a ruling on the business magnate’s appeal, the Supreme Court indefinitely suspended the second round scheduled for September 28 and issued a supplementary midnight ruling ordering the police and military to forcibly prevent the EC from conducting the polls.
The EC had said it intended to comply with the constitutionally-mandated deadline for the run-off, but was forced to capitulate after it was surrounded by special operations police with orders to storm the building, arrest officials and confiscate ballot papers.
The eventual revote on October 19 was also obstructed by police, after Progressive Party of Maldives candidate Abdulla Yameen and Gasim refused to sign the voter registry – a requirement from a 16-point guideline imposed on the EC by the Supreme Court judgment.
The guidelines also compelled the EC to consider the Department of National Registry’s (DNR) database as the primary source for compiling the eligible voters registry.
While the revote was eventually held on November 9 and a second round was due to take place the next day, Yameen refused to sign the voter lists hours before polls were to open and the Supreme Court ordered the EC to conduct the run-off election on November 16.
In what was the EC’s sixth attempt in two months to conduct polls, Yameen narrowly defeated Nasheed with 51.39 percent of the vote (111,203) to the MDP candidate’s 48.61 percent (105,181).
Meanwhile, on January 18, Nasheed told reporters that the MDP suspected electoral fraud using fake national identity cards in November’s polls.
Nasheed contended that non-existent people were added to the database at the DNR as part of “efforts to rig the election through the Supreme Court.”
EC President Fuwad Thowfeek told the press last month that the commission was was forced to consider the DNR list as legitimate despite errors, such as citizens deemed deceased while alive.