A 16-point guideline imposed by the Supreme Court on the Elections Commission (EC) in a controversial judgment annulling the first round of last year’s presidential election should be incorporated into electoral laws, Attorney General Mohamed Anil has said.
Local media has reported Anil as saying at a symposium on improving the electoral system held at Bandos Island Resort yesterday that amendments to election laws should be submitted to parliament.
The guidelines were issued by the apex court to strengthen the electoral framework and ensure that polls are free and fair, Anil said, suggesting that problems arose during the presidential election as a result of not amending laws in light of past experiences.
Among issues that needed to be addressed ahead of the next election cycle, said Anil, were problems with re-registration, assigning constituencies for citizens in the Malé municipality special registry, and strengthening the mechanism for addressing complaints.
Additionally, vote buying, bribery, and campaign finance reforms needed to be addressed, Anil said, adding that the percentage of women in elected public office could also be addressed through laws.
The three-day “Electoral Processes in the Maldives” symposium was organised jointly by the EC and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The EC explained in a joint press statement with IFES and USAID that “the symposium will provide a platform for stakeholders to present their views on key aspects of the electoral process, including legislative frameworks, operations, and inter-agency cooperation.”
“Participants will include the Elections Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission, Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, Attorney General’s Office, Prosecutor General’s Office, media organisations, political parties, civil society, and domestic and international observation organisations and experts.”
In January, a Commonwealth observer group recommended that the People’s Majlis examine the consistency and workability of the Supreme Court guidelines, suggesting that it “appeared to undermine the authority of the Election Commission, were inconsistent with or contrary to electoral law, and were at odds with the Constitution.”
While approval of voter lists was required by the apex court guideline, January’s local council elections went ahead despite only 147 out of 543 independent candidates signing the lists. The EC attempted to obtain signatures from some 2,463 candidates.
While the EC had also criticised the guidelines as “restrictions” that undermine its independence, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay accused the court of “interfering excessively in the presidential elections, and in so doing is subverting the democratic process and violating the right of Maldivians to freely elect their representatives.”