The Supreme Court has held the first hearing of the case filed by the Jumhooree Party (JP) against the Elections Commission (EC), requesting the apex court annul the presidential election held earlier this month.
Following a third place finish in the poll, JP leader and resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim announced his belief that he “should have finished the race in first place”, denouncing the results released by the EC.
During the first hearing the legal team of the JP, led by Gasim’s running mate and former Attorney General Dr Hassan Saeed, produced 13 reasons for the court to annul the elections. The party was also joined today by Attorney General Azima Shukoor and representatives of the second-placed Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), who criticised the EC in court.
Among the reasons given by Dr Saeed were: the inclusion of 669 deceased people in the voter registry, 102 repeated names, and the inclusion of 1,818 fake people whose national identity card numbers were not in Department of National Registration (DNR) database.
Dr Hassan also produced the names of voters allegedly omitted from the voter list, cases of double voting and of EC officials not using police assistance when transporting ballot boxes.
Prior to the hearing scheduled today (September 17), Dr Saeed told local media that in its petition filed at the Supreme Court, the JP would also request that the court order the security services to oversee the entire electoral process of a fresh presidential election.
The JP, in light of the evidence produced, requested the court declare the voter list and voter registry to have been compiled in contrast to the requirements of the law, and to therefore annul the presidential polls.
The party also requested that the court issue an injunction ordering the Elections Commission to stop work towards the scheduled run-off elections expected to happen on September 28.
EC response and High Court hearing
In response to the claims, Elections Commission’s lawyer and former Attorney General Husnu Al Suood claimed that JP’s evidence lacked any substance or basis, and questioned the authenticity of the documents produced to the court.
“The ultimate question we are facing here is, has the Jumhooree Party produced sufficient evidence which is enough to annul a presidential election?” Suood asked the seven-member panel of judges.
Suood – citing cases from other countries, including the famous 2000 US Supreme Court case Bush v. Al Gore regarding its presidential elections – contested that a constitutional void could follow any delay of the electoral process.
Attorney General Azima Shukoor – representing the state – told the court that the Attorney General’s Office had also found discrepancies in the voter registry, including underage people listed as eligible for voting, and the mixing up of voter information – including gender, address, and date of birth.
Although the Attorney General did not explicitly support annulment of the election, she too along with PPM and JP spoke against the commission’s arguments.
Azima requested that the Supreme Court order the Prosecutor General’s Office to take action against those found responsible for electoral fraud and other discrepancies.
Meanwhile, PPM lawyer Adam Zaneen unexpectedly also requested the court to annul the election based on the discrepancies highlighted by the JP.
The opposition, and poll-leading MDP, disputed the PPM’s argument, echoing Suood’s assertion that the JP had not produced substantial evidence – even that required to prove by balance of probabilities – to substantiate claims of electoral fraud.
The MDP also contended that annulling the election would undermine the rights of 95,000 voters who had backed the its candidate.
The Chief Justice concluded by saying that another hearing of the case would be held Wednesday (September 18), though he did not state a time.
Earlier in the week, the JP filed a similar lawsuit against the EC at the High Court, requesting the court order the EC to hand over the original voting lists placed at the ballot boxes during voting.
After a hearing today, the High Court ordered the EC to facilitate, in such a way that will remove the complainant’s doubts, the viewing of the voters list at the commission for Gasim Ibrahim himself or “a sufficient number” of his representatives.
The High Court panel stated that the ruling was based on the fact that candidates contesting in elections have the right to ascertain that all matters relating to elections are conducted freely and fairly, in a transparent manner, while the EC has a legal obligation to ensure and demonstrate the same.
Outside the courtroom, the EC has meanwhile emphatically rejected the JP’s allegations of misconduct, pointing to unanimous praise for the first round’s registration, voting and counting processes by local and international election observers.