The Maldives Supreme Court has issued an injunction delaying the second round of the presidential election until it has finished looking into alleged discrepancies in the first round.
The second round had been scheduled for this coming Saturday – September 28.
“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 injunction.
The ruling was 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.
The decision came today just hours after Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members held a demonstration outside the Supreme Court, brandishing stills from one of the numerous sex-tapes allegedly involving Justice Hameed.
The MDP – the party with the most votes in the first round, with 45.45 percent – reconvened the People’s Majlis in order to push for the reconstitution of the Supreme Court bench.
“We will not allow a courthouse that consists of some disgraced judges who face allegations of lewd conduct to abrogate the will of the people and disrupt the constitution,” the MDP said in a statement last week.
Despite chaotic scenes inside the Majlis yesterday, the party was able to push through a motion today calling for the second round to go ahead as scheduled.
MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has said he was not surprised by the decision.
“The Supreme Court has gone against all common sense, international opinion and the majority of the country without any evidence to do so,” he said.
Ghafoor added that any indefinite postponement of the second round vote was unrealistic, while claiming the decision had been made by the court without any real evidence to support its decision.
The MDP said it was too early for the party to announce how it would seek to move forward on the basis of the court’s verdict today, though he said it would “likely involve direct action.”
A meeting of the party’s National Council has been announced for 10:30pm at Male’ City Hall.
The court accepted the case six days ago, after the Jumhooree Party (JP) – which placed third in the first round – filed a case to annul the vote, alleging multiple discrepancies and fraud.
In a week’s worth of hearings, the complainant has still to produce concrete evidence, with the Election Commission’s lawyer – former Attorney General – Husnu Al Suood likening the case to a “fishing expedition”, alleging the JP was hoping to file another lawsuit based on any evidence collected from the current case.
The JP has rejected any assumption that an indefinite postponement to the country’s election may lead to political instability in the nation.
JP Deputy Leader Dr Ibrahim Didi said that ensuring a free and fair election was ultimately the most important factor in assuring stability within the Maldives and a “sustainable democracy” going forward.
“Political stability depends on political leaders’ actions, reactions and their party’s activities,” he said.
Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen, who was set to stand against MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed in the run-off vote, told Minivan News there was “nothing unconstitutional” with the court verdict.
“The Elections Commission got the opportunity to argue out their case and establish the credibility of the process,” he told Minivan News.
Yameen, who came second in the first round vote with 25 percent, said the country “should elect” a president soon.
Article 144 (b) of the constitution, titled ‘powers in constitutional matters’ states that, when deciding a constitutional matter within its jurisdiction, a court may make any order that is “just and equitable”, including:
“An order suspending the declaration of invalidity (of a statute, regulation or action due to inconsistency with the Constitution) for any period and on any conditions, to allow the competent authority to correct the defect.”
Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek previously told Minivan News that the constitutional timetable for the transfer of power could not be met should the run-off be delayed.
“120 days before the end of the current president’s term a presidential election must be held. If there is no election then the [democratic] constitution, presidential and general election law will not be satisfied,” he said.
After Commonwealth Special Envoy, Sir Donald McKinnon, this weekend joined in calls for the September 28 run-off to go ahead as schedule, the Maldives Foreign Office warned international observers to “help, not hinder” the state’s institutions.