The Supreme Court opened at midnight on Thursday to issue a ruling ordering the Elections Commission (EC) to restart the entire elections re-registration process.
“[The Supreme Court] orders the Elections Commission to start anew the process of compiling the voter registry and abide by the Supreme Court guidelines in the re-registration process for those who individuals who wish to vote in a location other than their place of domicile, and start anew re-registration process according to new procedures, disregarding previous re-registration,” read a verdict posted on the Supreme Court’s website.
The court also ordered the Elections Commission to give candidates the choice whether to stay on the ballot paper or withdraw from the election, contrary to the EC’s previous announcement.
“Elections Commission’s announcements (A) EA-2013/539 and (A) EA-2013/540 [concerning the re-registration process] contravene the guidelines put forth in the Supreme Court Verdict no 2013/SC-C/42,” read the ruling, signed by Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz.
“The Elections Commission must without further justifications proceed according to the guidelines put forth in the Supreme Court Verdict no 2013/SC-C/42,” the ruling stated.
The PPM today sought an order at the Supreme Court blocking Nasheed’s legitimacy to contest the election on the grounds of his criticising the judiciary and being “irreligious”, although this appeared to split the party, with State Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon declaring it was “not the right time”.
According to local media, the PPM also requested the court order the annulment of the voters’ list used in the first round on September 7, threatening that the party would not accept the result if the existing list was used. Prior to the first round, the PPM had called on the Elections Commission to make the voter registration process “more lenient”, requesting the EC not to reject voter registration forms missing details such as the name of a voter’s parents or a phone number, that could not be verified during random checks.
The 17 member Commonwealth election observation team in particular praised the final voter registry, describing it as “accurate and robust”.
“Fears expressed by some political parties regarding possible large numbers of deceased voters and voters registered in the wrong geographic area seem to be unfounded, based on the low incidence of election day complaints,” said the group’s head, former Prime Minister of Malta Dr Lawrence Gonzi.
In its verdict on the Jumhooree Party’s case annulling the first round of the election, the court ordered the EC to hold an election by October 20, requiring the commission to prepare for polls as the government shuts down for the Eid al-Adha break.
The EC scheduled the election for Saturday October 19, sending the ballots for printing on October 9 and opening the list on October 10 for re-registration.
In a statement on October 9, Transparency Maldives noted that the Elections Commission had yet to receive the details of the Supreme Court verdict regarding the supposed discrepancies noted in the secret police report, between the voter registry and voting records (such as the claimed ID card number mismatches, permanent address mismatches, and name mismatches).
The Supreme Court’s majority ruling this week to annul the first round contradicted the positive assessments of more than a thousand local and international election observers, and hinged on a confidential police report submitted to the court claiming that 5623 votes were ineligible.
The report has not been made public and the legal counsel of the Elections Commission was never given the opportunity to present a counter argument.
In the majority verdict, Supreme Court Judge Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi also declared that if a new president was unable to be sworn in on conclusion of the presidential term on November 11, the “principle of continuity of legitimate government would override any repercussions faced by failure to adhere to constitutional deadlines.”
The latest Supreme Court ruling follows a statement from UK Foreign Secretary William Hague stating that “It is imperative that there are no further delays and the elections be free, fair and inclusive, and that international observers are invited.”
“ It is important now that the democratic process proceeds in accordance with the Constitution,” Hague stated, calling on presidential candidates to respect the democratic process “and create conditions for free, fair elections.”
PPM MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that he believed the latest order would mean additional delays to the voting, currently scheduled for October 19.
With growing international pressure for voting to take place without further delay, Nihan claimed that the party believed that the 24 hours for re-registration provided by the EC would have been a “disaster” for the election.
“Even here in Male’ no one was aware of what was going on [regarding re-registration],” he said, adding that the occasion of the Eid holidays had meant voters were expected to be more likely to want to vote on different islands from where they were registered: “I am sure it is important to let everyone else have the right to vote in free and fair elections. The verdict clearly says the EC has to perform within guidelines,” he said.
Nihan claimed the views of various international groups such as the UN and Commonwealth reflected the MDP’s stronger connections with foreign governments, whom he accused of believing the views of the opposition party without listening to others.
“The international community are champions of democracy and we have to thank them for efforts to spread it throughout all corners of the globe,” he said. “However, the EU and Commonwealth must make sure they are getting the proper and full information from all sides including the government and opposition as well.”
Meanwhile earlier today Sun Online reported that one of the five EC members, Ogaru Ibrahim Waheed, had suddenly resigned.
According to Sun no reason was given, although ongoing death threats received by the Elections Commission (EC)’s permanent staff and polling station officials have prompted the commission to file a report with the Maldives Police Service (MPS).