UK welcomes steps towards “free, fair” elections, calls for “peaceful transition to post electoral politics”

UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has issued a statement welcoming confirmation from the Maldives’ Elections Commission “that the chosen candidates of all political parties will be able to participate in the presidential elections this coming September”.

All four candidates seeking the presidency have been accepted by the commission, and the five day period to contest those candidacies in the Supreme Court expired last week.

The four candidates from top to bottom on the ballot paper are Gasim Ibrahim (Jumhoree Party), Dr Mohamed Waheed (independent, incumbent president), Abdulla Yameen (Progressive Party of the Maldives) and Mohamed Nasheed (Maldivian Democratic Party, former President).

“It is vital for the good of the citizens in this young democracy that both campaigning and elections are judged to be free, fair and peaceful,” said Burt.

“We hope that all parties will honour free and fair election results and work to ensure a peaceful transition to post electoral politics. No matter who wins, cooperation between political parties will be vital in order to work for the good of the Maldivian people, and consolidate democratic institutions,” he added.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s candidacy in the upcoming elections was contested last year following the filing of charges in the Hulhumale Magistrate Court over his detention of Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed, in the days leading up to Nasheed’s controversial resignation.

Nasheed and the MDP contested that the charges were a politically motivated attempt to prevent him contesting the election, and challenged the authority of the court and the appointment of the panel of judges.

Both the court and the panel had been appointed by the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), which included several of Nasheed’s direct political opponents, including a rival presidential candidate, Gasim Ibrahim.

The international community reacted with calls for the presidential election to be “free, fair and inclusive”, and concerns over the state of the judiciary and the impartiality of the JSC were echoed in a special report by UN Special Rapporteur Gabriela Knaul.

“It is indeed difficult to understand why one former President is being tried for an act he took outside of his prerogative, while another has not had to answer for any of the alleged human rights violations documented over the years,” wrote Knaul, following her Maldives mission in February 2013.

The Nasheed trial subsequently stalled at the high court level, after Chief Judge of the High Court Ahmed Shareef issued an injunction.

A day later the JSC suspended Shareef for what it claimed was an unrelated matter. He is currently contesting his suspension in court.

Meanwhile, despite initial reluctance, Gasim stepped down from his position on the JSC in accordance with the commission’s regulation on members seeking elected political posts.

Nasheed’s candidacy was accepted by the Elections Commission on July 18.

“Today we submitted the election forms and begin the task of restoring democracy to our country. It has been a slippery slope but we have come a long way. Despite all the barriers and hurdles that were put in our way, we never gave up,” Nasheed stated, in a subsequent press conference.

Approximately 240,000 Maldivians will be eligible to vote in the September 7 election. Transparency Maldives, in its pre-election assessment, meanwhile warned that the election was set to unfold against a “crisis of legitimation, uncertainty of democratic transition, existing polarisations and other challenges that have been aggravated by the controversial transfer of power on 7 February 2012.”

“Political polarisation in the Maldives has grown in the wake of the failed all-party talks and events of February 7, leading to bitter mistrust between political factions and the pervading sense among parties that the loss of the upcoming elections ‘could amount to losing everything’,” Transparency stated.

Transparency will participate in monitoring the election, along with the UK, EU, Commonwealth and UN.


UK urges “free, fair and inclusive elections later this year”

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Minister for South Asia, Alistair Burt, has called on all parties in the Maldives “to work together to strengthen the country’s institutions and economy.”

Burt’s comments follow the Minister’s recent visit to the Maldives, during which he met with President Mohamed Waheed, Foreign Minister Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla, and politicial leaders including former President Mohamed Nasheed.

“Many changes have taken place in Maldives since my last visit in 2011 and the UK has been following developments with great interest and concern,” Burt said.

“It is now time for all parties in Maldives to focus on the future, rather than the past, and to work together to strengthen the country’s institutions and economy.

The UK remained keen to support Maldives in its democratic transition, Burt said.

“It is important that the historic gains made in the last few years are consolidated to ensure a truly democratic future. To this end, in my meeting with President Waheed on Saturday, I emphasised the importance of moving swiftly towards free, fair and inclusive elections later this year. I also stressed the importance of all parties being able to participate with the candidate of their choice. I was encouraged to learn that the date for these elections has now been confirmed for 7 September 2013,” he added.

Burt also urged the government and other parties to work towards institutional reform “and to fully investigate all allegations of police brutality, as recommended in the CoNI report.”