Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed
Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid has sent a letter to President Dr Mohamed Waheed informing him that his term as president expired at midnight, and informing him that he was no longer in command of the country.
Waheed yesterday declared that he would remain in power until the run-off vote scheduled for November 16, before boarding a speedboat off Male with his wife as violent protests and a police crackdown began to shake the capital.
Parliament last week passed a resolution calling on the speaker to run an interim government until the election after the expiry of Waheed’s term. However the Supreme Court issued a verdict on the day of the re-vote, November 9, upholding its earlier edict that Waheed remain in power.
The speaker’s letter called Waheed’s attention to Article 107 of the constitution which limits the presidential term to five years, and Article 262 which says Article 107 can only be amended if three quarters of the Majlis approves of the change and if a majority of the public votes for it in a public referendum.
As there is no other way to extend presidential term, the speaker informed Waheed: “The presidential term which began on 11 November 2008 ended on 10 November 2013 and the term cannot be extended unless the procedures laid out in Article 262 are followed.”
Speaker Shahid also noted that the constitution mandated all three branches of the state, staff employed by the state, and all citizens to fully obey and act within the confines of the constitution.
Therefore, any act committed in violation of the constitution was illegal as per Article 268 of the constitution, the letter highlighted.
The Speaker also sent a similar letter to Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz, Chief of Defence Forces Major General Ahmed Shiyam, Elections Commission President Fuwad Thowfeek, Human Rights Commission of the Maldives President Mariyam Azra, Civil Service Commission President Dr Mohamed Latheef, Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz, Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim, and Anti corruption Commission President Hassan Luthfy.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives Sir Donald McKinnon has meanwhile expressed “dismay” at Waheed’s decision to remain in office “against the letter and spirit of the constitution.”
McKinnon had earlier called for an interim government, invoking Article 124 which concerns the succession of the speaker should the posts of president and vice president become vacant. Vice President Waheed Deen had already resigned earlier that morning.
“In the absence of a political agreement, the people must look to their Constitution for guidance and have confidence in their Constitution. Article 124 makes clear the spirit and intent of the Constitution for situations such as the one the country is currently facing,” McKinnon stated.
Waheed, who received just 5.13 percent in the annulled first round vote on September 7, and who had previously declared he had no intention of remaining in power “even a day after November 11”, said: “Many Maldivians, international organisations and countries are pressuring me to resign and temporarily hand over the government to the People’s Majlis Speaker. On the other hand, even more citizens want me to stay on, to continue with administration of the country, to carry out my duty.”
Sir McKinnon said today that Waheed’s decision was “regrettably, not unexpected despite best efforts of the Commonwealth and the United Nations to encourage the President to stay within the constitution.
“I understand people’s anguish, but calm must prevail in the interests of all Maldivians. I naturally hope that the second round of the election will go ahead on 16th November, as pledged by the President in his address to the nation.”