After nearly two weeks of deliberations, the Maldives Supreme Court this week chose to annul the first round of the presidential election. The 4 to 3 decision hinged on a police report – seen only by the judges – that suggested 5,600 ineligible votes had been cast.
In the dissenting opinion, three of the seven member bench questioned the credibility of the evidence presented as well as questioning the court’s authority to rule on the case.
After consulting with government representatives on the repeated first round – scheduled for October 19 – in compliance with the court’s ruling, the EC was quickly told that it’s re-registration process had not followed the verdict.
The commission was ordered to re-start the entire process, putting the new polling date in doubt.
The latest court ruling came after the UK’s Foreign Secretary William Hague had stated as “imperative” that there were no further election delays. The week had begun with the UN Security Council being warned that democratic gains were “under threat” in the Maldives.
The Security Council was briefed on the growing instability in the country, an impression that will not have been altered by further signs of tension within the MNDF this week. More suspensions followed the circulation of a ‘letter of concern’ by senior officers last week.
Online speculation forced prominent lawyer Shaaheen Hameed and Defence Minister Retired Colonel Mohamed Nazim to deny rumours of an impending military takeover.
The Maldives Democracy Network, alongside the International Federation of Human Rights, were the first NGO’s to condemn the Supreme Court’s verdict – calling the decision “materially baseless”.
The decision was quickly followed by attempts from certain political and civil society representatives to bar presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed from subsequent polls – a move condemned by incumbent President Dr Mohamed Waheed.
Waheed himself received a stern rebuke from Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird’s office after complaining about the treatment of his own foreign minister at the recent CMAG meeting.
Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chose to interpret the first round’s annulment and the setting of a new date as a “huge victory”, bringing to an end its eleven consecutive nights of protest – during which 65 people were arrested.
Meanwhile, his political opponents began their campaigns with talk of fielding a single candidate in the (new) first round.
Campaigning on Jumhooree Party candidate Gasim Ibrahim’s Sun Island resort seems to have been continuous, with employees revealing details of multiple dismissals based on political affiliation.
The Prosecutor General’s Office assured the EC that it would receive full protection after it received a complaint regarding the behaviour of security services last month.
The intimidation of civil society groups in recent weeks prompted concern from both the Maldives Human Rights Commission as well as Transparency International, whose Maldivian chapter has received threats as well as promises of investigation from the government.
Local NGO Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) told Minivan News this week of its concern that child protection commitments undertaken by successive Maldivian governments remain “inadequate”.
Finally, the Maldives Monetary Authority’s quarterly bulletin showed that a shortfall in expected revenue, coupled with increased recurrent expenditure had caused the government’s finances to further deteriorate.
One potential source of additional revenue appeared to have been found this week as the government announced it would be sell shares in the state-owned Maldives Airports Company Limited – the current operator of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.