October 19 election date “a huge victory”, Nasheed tells supporters

Former President Mohamed Nasheed rallied supporters last night during a large Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) gathering near the Tsunami Monument in Male’, relaunching its ‘ehburun’ (‘one round’) campaign after 11 nights of protests.

Thousands attended the rally, at which Nasheed hailed the announcement of an election date as a “huge victory” in the country’s “irreversible move towards democracy.”

Nasheed finished first in the annulled poll on September 7 with 45.45 percent of the popular vote, missing out on the ’50 percent plus one vote’ needed for a first round victory.

The Elections Commission has scheduled the new vote for October 19, noting that as a repeat of the first round, all candidates names would have to appear on the ballot as before.

The PPM was scheduled to enter a September 28 run-off against Nasheed before the Supreme Court opted to annul first round altogetherThe 4:3 verdict hinged on a confidential police report – unavailable even to the Election Commission’s defence lawyers – supposedly claiming that 5,600 votes were ineligible due to errors such as address mismatches. The dissenting judges dismissed this evidence as invalid, noting only the claims of 473 ineligible votes – 0.2 percent of the total ballots cast.

“Our rivals wanted to arrest me for a long time. Our rivals want to dissolve the party system. Our rivals want to annul the presidential election indefinitely. Our rivals want the security forces to take over the Maldives’ government,” Nasheed told his supporters.

“Our rivals don’t want a democratic system in the Maldives, they do not want Maldivians to have the right to vote. They want to establish an authoritarian government again.,” he said.

With the first polls declared to be free and fair by all national and international observers, the MDP raised concern over the credibility of the order invalidating the first round of elections “by a Supreme Court bench tainted with allegations of corruption, and scandal.”

“The MDP is further disturbed over the Supreme Court’s comments allowing for an incumbent to remain as President despite the end of the Presidential term. The MDP does not believe that the Constitution allows for anyone to be President after the five year term which currently ends on 11 November 2013. Elections must be held to restore legitimate government and democracy in the Maldives,” the MDP said in a statement.

“The Election Commission stated that the only reason they halted the constitutionally stipulated second round of the Presidential Elections was due to a lack of cooperation by the security services and the Government, resulting in an environment non-conducive for free and fair elections.

“Thus, the MDP believe that the Supreme Court will entertain further spurious and vexatious claims as long as there is no interim arrangement allowing MDP a say in the affairs of the government,” the party added, but said it was “prepared for any election announced by the Elections Commission.”

“The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) firmly believes that all matters relating to the carrying out of Presidential elections must be decided upon by the constitutionally mandated Elections Commission,” the party stated.

“The MDP hopes that the elections takes place as soon as possible under the careful scrutiny of domestic and international observers.”

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has meanwhile announced that it is in discussions with both President Dr Mohamed Waheed and the Jumhooree Party (JP) regarding the fielding of a single candidate for the upcoming repeat of the presidential election.

“The PPM is a party that works with people. I know senior people are calling President Waheed and Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim. President Maumoon speaks to them,” the party’s running mate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed told local media today.

“If you are for the nation and religion, the first thing you have to do is beat MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party],” said PPM presidential candidate Adbulla Yameen.

“Then decide on who comes to power. We will, God willing, win this election if everyone thinks about this and remains steadfast.”

The Supreme Court case was initially filed by the third placed JP after its candidate and leader Gasim missed out on the second round by 2,677 votes.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, JP vice presidential candidate Dr Hassan Saeed also posited the idea of pooling support.

“We are trying to achieve results in a first round together with as many people as possible. There is talk among us to propose one candidate,” he told local media.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali has already announced that his party – the country’s third largest in terms of membership figures – will support Nasheed in subsequent polling.

Thasmeen had entered the first round as President Waheed’s running mate, however the incumbent leader received only 5.13 percent of the vote.