The Maldives Supreme Court has ordered the Elections Commission (EC) and all state institutions to make arrangements for a presidential run-off election on November 16, rather than today as previously scheduled.
News of the latest court ruling came less than an hour after the EC had declared the official results of yesterday’s poll at 4:30am.
The EC also announced its intention to go ahead with the scheduled run-off, with polling times set between 11am and 7:00pm today (November 10).
“The decision made by the EC to hold the second round on the 10th deprives the people from fully obtaining the basic right stated in article 26 of the constitution,” read the Supreme Court ruling (Dhivehi).
The ruling appears to have been drafted prior to the EC press conference, however, as it states that the EC had not yet announced when the provisional results would be held, nor the times for polling.
“Thus the date previously set by Elections Commission (16 November 2013) to hold the second round of presidential elections 2013 is seen as the most appropriate date, [the Supreme Court rules by referring to article (144) of the constitution] that the second round of the presidential election to be held on 10 November 2013 must be postponed, and orders the Election Commission and other relevant state institutions to make arrangements for the second round of presidential elections to be held on 16 November 2013, Saturday.”
The ruling is not signed by any member of the Supreme Court bench, featuring only the court’s stamp.
The Supreme Court ruling suggested that the major reason for the EC’s decision to hold the run-off today was to avoid a supposed constitutional crisis created by the ending of the current president’s term at midnight tonight.
The court, however, argued that its prior ruling (2013/SC-C/42) had provided for this scenario, using the continuity of government principle to keep President Dr Mohamed Waheed in power for any interim period.
During yesterday’s polling, the Supreme Court also met to rule that this previous verdict – one that had annulled the first round of voting from September 7 – also overruled the Majlis’ motion to hand power to Speaker Abdulla Shahid on November 12.
EC Director General Mohamed Shakeel told Minivan News this morning that the ruling meant no polling stations were allowed to open, no materials to be transported, nor any other preparations to be made.
“It states that all institutions in the Maldives are ordered not to provide assistance to the Elections Commission,” he continued. “So then the police won’t help.”
“I just informed polling station officials abroad about the polling start times [at the various overseas locations] and had to call them right back and tell them to halt all preparations,” he lamented, stating that the EC was currently reviewing the order.
This morning’s ruling results from a case filed yesterday by Jumhooree Party’s (JP) Youth Wing leader Moosa Anwar, who argued that the short space between votes might result in the loss of the right to campaign before the next round.
During an EC press conference to announce the provisional results of yesterday’s poll, EC President Fuwad Thowfeek said the date had been agreed by the candidates themselves.
“We are working to have the second round tomorrow. We want to hold it tomorrow as it was agreed by the three candidates, and the president, and all the concerned authorities,” Thowfeek said.
Beyond his press conference Yameen had “not informed” the EC of his refusal to sign the lists, Thowfeek said.
While the PPM initially wanted to sign all the lists, he said they later sent a letter saying they wanted to sign only the changed lists.
Instead, preparations have been hampered by “lack of cooperation” from one candidate, Thowfeek said, which was called by “confusion” over issues involving signing the voters list.
“First we agreed, since it was one day [between the polling rounds], to take just the changed names to a separate list for the candidates to sign. But representatives requested revising the lists and to sign [the changed lists]. We did that but after signing for a while they stopped and asked to change it to the way before. So we said we were ready to do it the way they requested.”
The commission had not heard from the representatives after that, Thowfeek said.
He noted that the EC had agreed to the November 10 date upon request by the president, adding that a new date would mean restarting preparation and additional costs.
“We would face such difficulties so are trying to see if there is a way to go ahead [with the second round]. We hope we will find that path,” Thowfeek said.
“Serious risk of indefinite delay”: Nasheed
As yesterday’s results revealed a second round contest between Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen and Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Yameen immediately announced that he would not be signing the required voting lists for the run-off.
“No, election is not going to happen tomorrow. Simple reason being that the Elections Commission is not prepared for that. Elections Commission does not have a list that has been pre-signed by the candidates. What they have is a fresh list. So a fresh list for us to review and sign, for verification we need at least 48 hours.”
Speaking to Minivan News yesterday evening, Nasheed warned that “if we don’t have elections tomorrow there is a serious risk of indefinite delay as now Waheed is asked to stay on by the Supreme Court. Our opponents know that they will lose in a fair fight.”
“In my view if the international community says that they will not recognise Waheed after November 11 then we will have elections. Then again it’s very difficult to see the international community doing the right thing. We are in this mess because they recognised a rebel government in February 2012,” he said.
Nasheed’s calls to the international community soon resulted in international calls to stick to the arranged election schedule.
The US state department said that delaying the second round beyond the current constitutional requirements “will create uncertainties that may destabilize Maldives.”
“It is unreasonable and unacceptable for parties to continue to demand changes to an agreed election date. Voters deserve a greater degree of predictability over something as serious as a presidential election.”
Similarly, the Commonwealth’s Special Envoy to the Maldives Sir Don McKinnon declared it to be “unreasonable and unacceptable” for parties to continue demanding changes to the agreed election date.
“Any further delays would create uncertainty for the voters, place extra demands on the Elections Commission and lower people’s confidence in the country’s democratic institutions,” he said.
A number of Maldives National Defence Force officer have been found to be circulating an appeal calling on their fellow soldiers not to obey “unlawful” orders issued by President Waheed or his political appointees, following the expiry of his presidential term at midnight on November 10.