Vice President Waheed Deen has resigned from the government, stepping down from the post he assumed shortly after February 7 2012’s controversial transfer of power.
His resignation comes on final day of President Mohamed Waheed’s term, and has prompted speculation that President Mohamed Waheed may similarly step down.
While the Supreme Court yesterday dismissed a parliamentary resolution that would have installed the Speaker of Parliament and reiterated that President Waheed’s government would continue after November 11, Waheed himself has previously indicated his reluctance to remain in the post “even a day after November 11”.
Senior and mid-ranking Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) officers as recently as yesterday were appealing to their colleagues not to recognise the authority of the President and his cabinet after midnight November 10.
Should Waheed step down leaving both offices vacant, Article 124(b) of the Constitution would automatically pass power to the Speaker.
124 (b)In the event of the permanent incapacity, resignation, removal or death of both the President or the Vice President, and both offices becoming vacant at the same time, leading to an incapacity to carry out the duties of the President, until such time as a President and a Vice President shall be elected, the duties of both offices shall temporarily be carried out, in order of priority, by the Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by the Deputy Speaker of the People’s Majlis, or by a member of the People’s Majlis elected by a resolution of the People’s Majlis, until successors in office are chosen.
The prospect of impending constitutional limbo was triggered following yesterday’s election, after second-placed candidate Abdulla Yameen refused to sign the voter lists ahead of the run-off vote scheduled for today, and insisted that the election be held after November 13.
In a stamped but unsigned ruling issued at 5:30am this morning the Supreme Court declared that the revote should be held on November 16, despite the Elections Commission and all candidates previously agreeing that it should be held today.
Elections Commission (EC) Director General Mohamed Shakeel told Minivan News this morning that the ruling meant no polling stations were allowed to open, no materials could be transported, or any other preparations to be made.
“It states that all institutions in the Maldives are ordered not to provide assistance to the Elections Commission,” he continued. “So then the police won’t help.”
The EC said the delay would cost the state a further MVR 30 million (US$2 million).
The US Embassy in Colombo meanwhile issued a new statement this afternoon slamming the behaviour of the Supreme Court.
“Efforts by the Supreme Court to repeatedly and unduly interfere in the electoral process subverts Maldives’ democracy and takes decision-making out of the hands of the people. It is imperative that Maldives proceed to a runoff election with no further interference so that the democratic process can complete the transition to new leadership,” the US embassy said in a statement.
“We are deeply concerned about the Supreme Court’s ruling today against the holding of the scheduled second-round election on 10 November. Because of the Supreme Court’s intervention, the Maldivian presidential elections will not be completed before the current presidential mandate expires at midnight on November 10, 2013.
“In situations of uncertainty, the people must have confidence in their Constitution and look to it for guidance. We urge all three branches of the government and the political parties to respect the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and halt the constant reinterpretation of the legalities involved,” the statement said.
“The November 9 election has shown the commitment of the citizens of Maldives to the democratic process and the ability of the Election Commission to efficiently hold free, fair and credible elections that reflect the will of the people.”
Commonwealth Special Envoy Sir Don McKinnon has also issued a damning statement on the conduct of the Supreme Court, and called for consideration of Article 124 – tacitly backing an interim government under the Speaker.
“In the absence of a political agreement, the people must look to their Constitution for guidance and have confidence in their Constitution. Article 124 makes clear the spirit and intent of the Constitution for situations such as the one the country is currently facing,” McKinnon stated.
“Article 124 reflects the basic democratic principle that the state’s power must always lie with the people and their elected representatives. This is the fundamental underpinning of the Constitution. Elected representatives speak for the people. I therefore believe that Article 124 offers the most appropriate guidance to avoid constitutional uncertainty and sustain the support of the people,” McKinnon said.
“As in most countries, an interim government would not be expected in any interim period, such as from 11 November to the swearing in of a new elected President, to take any significant decision or new policy initiative,” he added.
No role for international community: Yameen
Yameen lashed out at international pressure for elections during a press conference last night.
“There is no role for the international community in holding an election in any country, is there? An election is a domestic matter, isn’t it? What international organisations, ambassadors or foreign governments can do is appeal. But they will appeal to hold the election as soon as possible in accordance with Maldivian law, and we want to hold the election in accordance with the law as well,” Yameen said.
He accused the Elections Commission of not being properly prepared.
“At least 12 hours should be given to campaign for the election, shouldn’t it? The law provides time more generously than that. So for these reasons I said on behalf of PPM that I support holding the second round on November 11.”
“The international community would want to expedite the election. That is because there should be a President as early as possible at the start of a new constitutional term. Having an elected president on November 11 is what we Maldivians want as well, not just foreign parties. They will press for that but there is no role for international parties in elections,” he insisted.
The PPM candidate – half brother of former autocratic President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ruled the Maldives for 30 years – claimed a constitutional amendment would be required for the Speaker to assume the presidency in the absence of a president-elect at the end of the presidential term.
“So even if it has been passed by Majlis, we don’t believe either then or now that it has any legal weight,” he said.
He said the Supreme Court has provided legitimacy for President Waheed to remain in office after the conclusion of his term, declaring that Waheed was willing to stay “to the extent that the public wants,” something which was noted “very clearly” at the meeting last week.
“Now the Supreme Court verdict has come the way President Waheed hoped for or wanted. So I am certain that President Waheed will stay with the Maldivian people at this most difficult time we are facing. I have no doubt about that,” Yameen said.
Deen’s phone was switched off at time of press.
Meanwhile third-placed candidate Gasim Ibrahim’s running mate, Hassan Saeed, a former Special Advisor to President Waheed, announced his retirement from politics to local media.