This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.
There’s a sense of foreboding in the air as Male’ waits for the Elections Commission’s decision on whether they are going to defy the Supreme Court’s unconstitutional ruling to indefinitely delay the election scheduled for tomorrow.
Yesterday, Fuwad Thowfeek, the president of the Elections Commission was adamant that he will hold the second round tomorrow as scheduled, despite the Supreme Court injunction. This gave immense hope to Maldivians committed to the restoration of democracy, and several gathered at Raalhugandu for a final MDP rally ahead of voting on Saturday. The mood at the rally was slightly less cheerful than the usual MDP dos with several talkers highlighting the need to vote “come what may.”
Mohamed Nasheed, ever the optimist and the tireless activist-leader who lifts everyone’s spirits, sought to reassure supporters that voting would go ahead. Yet, he spoke of the need for everyone from nurses and teachers to boy scouts and girl guides to watch the vote boxes, to be mindful of the ballot papers, leaving it unsaid that if the Elections Commission makes the brave decision to go ahead with the election, it would be without the support of crucial state institutions.
Despite it being close to midnight, the Supreme Court responded with an order to the security forces to act against anyone who defied its indefinite injunction against the second round. Within minutes, pro-democracy news channel Raajje TV was reporting that the Elections Commission had backtracked on their earlier defiance, saying they had halted all preparations for the election. This turned out to be untrue, too.
The disinformation may be a deliberate ploy to confuse and to dishearten the electorate. But it is not succeeding. Supporters of democracy are getting ready for MDP’s last campaign activity scheduled for this afternoon — a parade around Male’, much like the one on 6 September ahead of the first round. No doubt it will draw a massive crowd. Tens of thousands of voters are upset by the shenanigans of the Supreme Court, and are ready to come out on the streets to express their displeasure.
One judge, in particular, has become the focus of everyone’s ire and the subject of national ridicule. Judge Ali Hameed—now internationally famous for having sex with three prostitutes in a Sri Lankan hotel after a lengthy video of his ‘adventure’, which lasted over a long weekend was leaked on the Interne— is one of seven judges adjudicating on Jumhooree Party’s application to have the election delayed.
Yesterday, as Hameed sat inside the plush courtroom in Gayoom’s former palace clad in the full ‘Supreme Court Justice’ regalia, outside hundreds of people gathered with large white briefs, representative of the Y-fronts he was seen wearing (on and off) during the sex tape. That he is still not just sitting on the bench, but also signing court orders that violate the constitution and potentially rob over 200,000 people of their chance to vote has made a mockery of the Maldivian Constitution in more ways than one.
Police controlling protesters outside the Supreme Court yesterday. Photo: Aznym:
The gist of yesterday’s arguments during the ongoing hearing has added to the frustration and anger. Three judges—Ali Hameed, Abdulla Saeed and Abdulla Mohamed—continuously interrupted all arguments by Elections Commission lawyer to defend the institution. When he attempted to point out that their ruling was in violation of the Constitution, one of the three judges responded by saying, “We have the power to change the Constitution.”
When EC lawyer argued that delaying the elections would leave the country in a legal black hole, one of them responded: “No it won’t. If the Constitution is not in force, Shari’a will be activated by default.”
This would, no doubt, be good news for the radical religious ‘scholars’, but it adds to the sense of foreboding in the air today.
Immediately after Commissioner Thowfeek’s announcement that he will hold the election regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, all Commission staff began receiving death threats in the form of text messages sent to their mobile phones. The message, posted on social media by various members of the staff reads [translation]:
If you take Fuad Thowfeek’s side and join him in his violation of the Constitution in defiance of the Supreme Court and continue with voting activities, you will be killed. Allah Akbar.
Added to this is the court order to the security forces to act against anyone who defies their ruling to delay the election.
Does this only apply to Elections Commission, or to all those who turn out to vote tomorrow? Are the security forces to crackdown on all voters? Does the court order amount to an all-clear for a full-fledged military takeover? If so, is the entire military willing to participate, or is the institution too divided? Reports of divisions within the military have been rife since the coup of 7 February 2012.
High ranking officials within the forces have confirmed to Dhivehi Sitee that a significant section of the military will not support a military takeover, a coup within a coup. MDP is aware of this, and have called on supporters to appeal to those personnel for protection.
Nasheed made a similar appeal on Thursday night, heavily criticising the Generals who facilitated the 7 February coup, and calling [by name] on other Generals to cease their inaction and stand up in support of democracy. A lot of bad can happen when good men do nothing, he warned.
As time for the election draws near, people are expressing their anxiety in different ways. At noon today, in the heat of the blazing sun, Male’s surfing community and other participants made beautiful coral sculptures on the eastern seawall. The various shaped corals stacked precariously on top of each other, they said, represents the current state of the country—finely balanced on the edge of a precipice. One unthinking, or deliberate, act will bring it all crumbling down.
But today’s parade will also show the determination of a majority of Maldivians to protect the fragile Maldivian democracy. A showdown between the audacity of dictatorship and the hope of democracy is imminent. The world is watching, and hopefully, rooting for the Maldivian people.
Dr Azra Naseem has a PhD in International Relations
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