Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed and Mariyath Mohamed
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has declared it will hold continuous protests after the Supreme Court’s sudden decision on Monday (September 23) evening to indefinitely postpone the second round of the presidential election.
The Supreme Court’s controversial injunction came just hours after parliament passed a resolution calling on all state institutions to ensure that the second round of the presidential election be held as scheduled.
Scattered protests involving hundreds of people erupted across the capital city of Male’ after the MDP’s National Council unanimously supported a motion calling for demonstrations until the Supreme Court allowed the elections to proceed.
During the meeting, MDP presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed, who obtained 45.45 percent of the votes in the first round of polling on September 7, urged the Elections Commission (EC) to disregard the Supreme Court’s ruling in favour of parliament’s resolution and continue with election preparations.
“The Chief Justice has to find a solution. I call on the Chief Justice to uphold his duties,” Nasheed said, asking police to support the EC and the military “to keep us safe”.
Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid confirmed to Minivan News that he was pepper sprayed by police while several MDP MPs, including Ali Azim and Mohamed ‘Bonda’ Rasheed, were reportedly taken away by police. Rasheed was reportedly released while Azim was taken into police custody.
Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef could not confirm the number of arrests, whether pepper spray was used, or provide further details at time of press.
Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem confirmed to Minivan News that military personnel had been deployed around the military’s headquarters following the Supreme Court’s election injunction, in line with “standard procedure”.
Demonstrators initially tried to enter Republic Square before being pushed back by a dozen police and being barricaded near Fareedhee Magu. Minivan News observed a small number of police equipped with riot gear on standby nearby.
A group protesters were observed hanging a large pair of white underpants on a police barricade, a reference to recently-leaked videos of Supreme Court judge Ali Hameed apparently fornicating with unidentified foreign women in a Colombo hotel room.
“This is not acceptable. The people’s voice cannot be blatantly rejected by four disgraced judges,” said 33 year-old Ahmed Thahseen, a demonstrator near Fareedhee Magu.
“I’m not going home until the Supreme Court gives a ruling and lets people have the due election,” 23 year-old protester Aishath Shaffa told Minivan News.
“Let’s see how that disgrace of a politican Gasim runs his businesses when the electorate goes on strike. The people are what matters. We are everything and the Supreme Court Needs to realise that,” said 52 year-old protester Fathimath Shareefa.
“The Supreme Court order is an absolutely unacceptable act. After all the work we have done, the protests, the campaigns, we won’t watch it all go to waste,” said Ahmed ‘Gahaa’ Saeed, the MDP’s member on the Commission of National Inquiry (CONI), who joined the protesters.
“If you look at all the statements given at CONI which have since been leaked, you will see the injustice that people have faced. We are being pushed back to square one all over again and the people refuse to sit back and take it,” he added. “We are here filled with hope. There is another force and I believe truth will prevail.”
The controversial injunction
Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidate and resort tycoon, Gasim Ibrahim, initially filed a case in the Supreme Court seeking annulment of the election results after he narrowly missed a place in the run-off with 24.07 percent of the vote, declaring at a rally that “God Willing, Gasim will be President on November 11″.
The case was intervened by the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Attorney General Azima Shukoor, both of which sided against the Elections Commission.
The EC has defended itself arguing that not only had the JP had failed to substantiate or give the specifics of any evidence of fraudulent voting submitted against it, but even if this evidence were to be proven beyond reasonable doubt it was still insufficient to affect the outcome of the first round of election results.
The commission also pointed to unanimous positive assessments of the first round polls by local and international election observers, including the Commonwealth, US, UN, and Transparency Maldives.
In response President Mohamed Waheed’s government called on international groups to “help, not hinder the state institutions in exercising their constitutional duties”, while JP running mate and lawyer Dr Hassan Saeed declared in court that election observers “do not carry much weight”.
Monday evening’s sudden injunction stated that it had been discussed by all judges on the seven member bench, before being signed by Justice Abdulla Saeed, Justice Ali Hameed Mohamed, Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla, and Justice Dr Abdulla Didi.
“Based on Article 144 (b), we order the Elections Commission and other relevant state institutions to delay the second round of the presidential election scheduled for 28 September 2013 until the Supreme Court issues a verdict in this case,” read the Supreme Court order.
Lawyer for the Elections Commission, former Attorney General Husnu al Suood, tweeted that the interim order by the Supreme Court “has no legal basis, and violates the constitution.”
MDP lawyer Hissan Hussein also said the Supreme Court’s order was unconstitutional, stating that the article 144 (b) it had invoked concerned the Supreme Court’s capacity to delay lower court verdicts, not elections.
Meanwhile, article 111(a) of the constitution stipulates “that a President shall be elected by over fifty percent of the votes. If no candidate obtains such majority, a run-off election must be held within twenty one days after the first election.”