The UK’s Bar Human Rights Committee (BHRC) has expressed concern at the annulment of the first round of presidential elections, stating that such a verdict was “particularly troubling in the context of the ongoing international criticism concerning the lack of independence of the Maldivian judiciary and the lack of adequate separation of powers.”
The BHRC conducted independent observations of the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed in the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court earlier this year, a trial the MDP presidential candidate contended was a politically-motivated attempt to bar him from contesting the upcoming election.
The BHRC concurred in its observation report: “BHRC is concerned that a primary motivation behind the present trial is a desire by those in power to exclude Mr Nasheed from standing in the 2013 elections, and notes international opinion that this would not be a positive outcome for the Maldives,” wrote observer Stephen Cragg on behalf of the BHRC, the international human rights arm of the Bar of England and Wales.
In its most recent statement, the BHRC noted that the Supreme Court’s verdict to annul the September 7 election, in which Nasheed received 45.45 percent of the popular vote, “runs contrary to the conclusions of national and international election monitors, including the expert Commonwealth Observer Group, which confirmed that the electoral process was free, fair, well-organised and transparent. BHRC further notes with concern that the Court’s verdict appears to have been based on an unsubstantiated and as yet undisclosed police report.”
“Recent reports indicating that on October 10, the Progressive Party of Maldives filed a petition to the Supreme Court to invalidate the candidacy of Mr Nasheed are also cause for concern,” the BHRC added.
“BHRC urges the Maldivian national authorities to conduct prompt and effective investigations into these incidents, and to ensure that human rights, electoral freedoms and respect for the rule of law, including for Constitutional provisions, are respected at all times, not least in the current uncertain electoral climate,” the statement concluded.
Australia calls for parties to respect outcome of polls
The Australian government has meanwhile issued a statement acknowledging the Maldivian government’s “commitment to hold a fresh round of Presidential elections on October 19.”
“It is important that the elections are held in a free, fair and inclusive manner and facilitate a peaceful transition to a new President by 11 November, as required under the Constitution of Maldives,” the statement read. “We encourage Maldives voters to take part in the rescheduled process and note preparations being undertaken by the Elections Commission to facilitate voter participation.”
The Australian government called on all parties “to accept the outcome of a free and fair contest”.
“As a fellow member of the Commonwealth, we look to all parties in the Maldives to uphold democratic values and the rule of law by ensuring an orderly and peaceful electoral process.”
“Alongside other Commonwealth member states and other concerned parties in the international community, we continue to watch developments in the Maldives very closely,” the statement concluded.
The Australian government’s statement follows a statement this week from UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, declaring that it was “imperative that there are no further delays and the elections be free, fair and inclusive, and that international observers are invited.”
Hague urged presidential candidates “to act in line with the interests of the people of Maldives”, and expressed hope “that the process will enable the President elect to be inaugurated by 11 November, in line with the constitutional framework.”
UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has previously said the country was “extremely concerned” when the Supreme Court ordered the second round of presidential elections delayed.
“I recognise the right of the Maldivian courts to ensure legitimate allegations of electoral malpractice are investigated appropriately. However, it is vital to avoid any unnecessary disruptions to the national electoral process, and for representatives from all sides to be represented during any legal proceedings,” Burt stated, prior to the court’s annulment of the first round’s results.
The US also said this week that it was is “deeply concerned” about continued legal actions “that could further delay the Maldivian presidential election”.
“It is important that the [election] go forward unimpeded in a fair, inclusive and transparent way,” said Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department, Marie Harf, in a statement.
“The basis of any democracy is for citizens to choose their government, for political differences to be decided at the ballot box in an environment free of violence and for election results to be respected,” the statement read.
“We continue to urge a peaceful political process that is inclusive of all candidates in order to ensure the Maldivian election that will meet international standards of an elected, legitimate democracy,” it concluded.