The MDP will set-up a permanent protest area in the Raalhugandu area of the capital Male’, following the Supreme Court’s decision to indefinitely postpone the second round of the country’s presidential elections.
“In compete defiance of the Constitution, this act by a discredited court is a betrayal of democracy and the will of the Maldivian people,” said party spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor in a press release today.
“All local and international observers, including those from Transparency Maldives, the United Nations, the Commonwealth, and India praised the first round of elections as free and fair and without incident.
“This ruling is a cynical attempt by President Nasheed’s political opponents to delay an election they feared they were likely to lose.”
“The MDP reiterates the statement made by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, that ‘justice must not merely be done but must also be seen to be done and judges must not only be actually impartial they have to appear impartial to the public’.”
“We urgently appeal to our friends in the international community to use their good offices to ensure that elections can swiftly proceed in the Maldives,” the statement concluded.
Following the court’s decision on Monday evening, the party’s National Council resolved to protest continuously and peacefully until a date is given for the second round. The immediate scattered protests quickly tailed off as police were deployed to counter them.
“Maldivian norms are now changing. Tonight’s actions will be written in history as actions taken for that change,” Nasheed told the National Council.
MDP candidate Nasheed led the polls in the first round, with 45.45 percent of the vote, ostensibly setting up a second round run-off Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen.
However, as yet unsubstantiated complaints from the third-placed Jumhooree Party (JP) – alleging voter fraud, have led the court to order a delay of the run-off until had has finished hearing the JP’s case.
Meanwhile, the MDP is currently protesting outside of the courtroom as the case continues today. The party intends to move into Raalhugandu – also known as the surf point – at 5:00pm today.
Back to ‘Justice Square’
“The people of the Maldives need a place to go and express their concern in a peaceful manner” said Aminath Shauna, the MDP’s Youth Wing leader.
“As President [Mohamed] Nasheed said yesterday, the job of the political parties is to facilitate peaceful political activity. We are making sure people have a place to express this in a peaceful manner.”
The MDP’s return to the area – previously dubbed ‘Justice Sqaure’ – will come 18 months after they were evicted from the site by security forces last year.
The party’s eviction immediately followed violent clashes with police as newly appointed President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan attempted to reopen the Majlis following the controversial resignation of former President Nasheed the previous month.
During the ensuing legal battle – during which the MDP claimed it had the right to protest in the area – state attorneys argued that the site had been used to conduct illegal activities, and that its occupants had been violent towards police.
Following the removal from Raalhugandu, the party leased the nearby Usfasgandu area of land from Male’ City Council, before Nasheed called upon the party to relocate to its numerous ‘jagahas’ (campaign centres) in preparation for the election.
Shauna today maintained that the party intended to continue pursuing non-violent forms of direct action.
“I don’t think people in the government will interfere with the MDP because the majority of the people have spoken.”
The Supreme Court’s sudden decision to halt the election has jarred with the expectations of international parties, which unanimously labelled the first round of polls as fair and competitive and called for run-off to take place as scheduled on September 28.
“The people of Maldives went to the polls in good faith on 7 September to elect a president. That election was found by national and international observers, notably by a high-level and experienced Commonwealth Observer Group, to be competitive and credible,” said Commonwealth Special Envoy Sir Donald McKinnon, in a statement today.
“It is therefore deeply worrying to hear comments calling for the annulment of that election. No election anywhere is going to be absolutely perfect and there was no evidence or claim before the election that the voter register was manifestly so deficient as to so distort the outcome.
“I therefore hope very much that the Supreme Court will deliver its judgment expeditiously in the case pending before it so that the second round can be held, and the verdict of the Maldivian people determined, without further delay.
“As I have stated before, the Maldivian people must be the winners in this election – they are collectively more important than any one political leader. The people of Maldives worked hard to get a democratic constitution, they want it respected and it is their right that the elections deliver a result that reflects the wishes of the majority,” McKinnon said.