This week began with the Elections Commission meeting to decide if it was to go ahead with the scheduled run-off on Saturday (September 28). After police demonstrated their intention to stop the vote by force, the EC declared that it could not hold polls under such circumstances.
The decision to delay, however, did not prevent the EC’s members receiving multiple death threats, prompting requests for police assistance.
Whilst EC advisor Judge Johann Kriegler held a public lecture regarding the importance of collective belief in a successful election, legal experts in the country explained to Minivan News that the Supreme Court’s rulings had left the country in a legal void.
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) began what they hoped would be a pre-election rally from the south side of Male’, which turned into a stand-off with police in the streets surrounding the Supreme Court. Following news of the delay, Mohamed Nasheed’s supporters have demonstrated in the same area for seven consecutive nights.
After some reflection, the MDP’s leadership announced its determination to establish a “people’s government” should a new president not be sworn in by the end of incumbent Dr Mohamed Waheed’s term on November 11.
The remainder of Waheed’s address to the nation was largely concerned with warning the state’s warring institutions about foreign actors who may take advantage of such disharmony. His fears were no doubt stoked by the remarks made on social media by former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed, who had suggested that resolution of the Maldives’ current crisis may require some form of foreign assistance.
Whilst Waheed stayed away from the UN General Assembly this week, Acting Foreign Minister Dr Mariyam Shakeela was in attendance, warning the group’s members against attempts to interfere in “the emergence of an indigenous democratic system of governance in the Maldives”. Shakeela’s comments came just days after the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) expressed concern at recent developments during its biannual meeting.
Unrest within the security forces became apparent this week, as a number of leaked letters from current and former military personnel revealed concerns over the potential politicisation of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF). Authorities have responded with stricter internal regulations and a number of suspensions, as well as blasting media outlets for reporting the leaked letters.
The Maldives Media Council announced its intention to file a no-confidence motion in parliament against the country’s broadcast regulator, as well as accusing the EC of favouring certain outlets.
The Indian High Commission this week revealed its own lack of confidence in multiple Maldivian state institutions, whom it accused of being complicit in the mistreatment of hundreds of its workers.
The country’s political deadlock has threatened to spread to the economy as port workers flexed their collective muscles in order to send a message to the government regarding the delayed vote. Reports of strikes by air traffic controllers and ground handling staff at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) were played down by management.
Customs workers also held strikes on Thursday – citing long term workplace grievances – and have given management one week to address their demands .
Calls for tourism workers striking last week failed to result in significant incident, though Minivan News was informed of the partisan political atmosphere in Irufushi which has resulted in numerous dismissals at the resort.
Travel advisories in a number of significant markets, including China and the UK, were updated this week to warn of growing instability.
The MDP’s supposed run-off opponents, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) took advantage of the lack of activity in the Supreme Court to call for the removal from parliament of MDP MPs who had criticised the court’s recent rulings. The Home Ministry has announced it is investigating both Transparency Maldives and the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM) for similar offences.
The PPM also called for the resumption of Nasheed’s stalled trial regarding the detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed, and the quick resolution of the Dr Afrasheem Ali murder case. Police this week forwarded a further four names to the Prosecutor General for their alleged involvement of the late PPM MP’s killing.