MDP reveals candidates competing in Male’ area primaries

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has announced the names of candidates competing in its parliamentary primaries for thirteen Male’ City constituencies.

The party also announced that three candidates won the ticket without a primary because they were the only candidates contesting in primaries for those seats.

The three candidates in question were Medhuhenveiru MP Ali Azim, Galolhu Uthuru MP Eva Abdulla, and Maafannu Uthuru MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, who contested for the constituencies they currently represent.

Among other sitting MP s who are contesting in the primaries are Hulhuhenveri MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, Medhuhenveriru MP Ali Azim, Henverirudhekunu MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, and Machangolhi Uthuru MP Mariya Ahmed Didi competing for the seats they currently hold.

Majlis Chair and Keyodhoo MP Abdulla Shahid will compete for the newly introduced Henveiru Uthuru constiuency ticket and Maafannu Dhekunu MP Ibrahim Rasheed ‘Bonda’ for the newly introduced Maafannu Medhu constituency (formerly Villi Maafannu).

Candidates competing in the primaries for all constituencies other than the thirteen Male’ City areas were announced last month.

The only sitting MDP MP s who are not competing in the primaries are Maafannu Hulhangu MP Abdulla Abdul Raheem, Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Rasheed, Komandoo MP Hussein Waheed and Gaddhoo MP Zahir Adam.

In addition to sitting MPs, former members of the Majlis and the Constitutional Assembly, senior members in the MDP government, prominent party activists, and other famous national personalities will be competing in the MDP primaries scheduled to be held on 24 January.

The parliamentary elections are to be held on March 22 to elect the 85 members of the 18th Peoples Majlis for a five year term.
The complete list of candidates competing in the MDP primaries for Male’ area constituencies can be seen here.


Development requires democracy, says Nasheed, launching “Votun Ufaaverikan” campaign

A democratic government elected by the people is necessary for development of the country, former President Mohamed Nasheed said at a rally in Haa Dhaal Kulhudhufushi on Saturday (November 2) to launch the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) “Votun Ufaaverikan” (Contentment through the Vote) campaign.

The MDP presidential candidate said the party believes democratic principles were best demonstrated by the practice of reaching consensus through consultation advised in the Quran and Sunnah (teachings and practices of Prophet Mohamed).

“It will be hard to bring about the change we want, the development we want, without following these principles,” he said.

The most important lesson Maldivians have learnt in the recent past is that a democratic system of governance must be strengthened to achieve development, Nasheed said, adding that a “muddled” government could not ensure progress.

While the MDP government planned a number of development projects for Kulhudhufushi, he added, it came to a halt under the present “unelected government.”

An election was needed to resume the projects, he said, which includes the construction of a 22-kilometre road, a ferry terminal, a city hotel and a duty-free complex in addition to building housing units, securing opportunities for higher education, widening the ‘Hunaru’ skills training programme, and connecting the island to India via a ferry network.

Before the MDP government was “toppled” in February 2012, Nasheed said regional governments had committed to an Indian ocean passenger and cargo ferry service at the November 2011 SAARC summit in Addu City.

The MDP’s presidential election campaign was relaunched with the new slogan yesterday at 4:30pm with simultaneous events in 23 locations, covering all the atolls of the country.

Gatherings also took place in Malaysia and India, with Speaker Abdulla Shahid attending the function in Trivandrum.

In his speech at the main event, Nasheed said the purpose of an election was to offer a choice for citizens to pick the best policies and pledges.

In a democracy, he added, the role of opposition parties should be holding the government accountable and ensuring that campaign pledges were fulfilled.

However, instead of campaigning and presenting policies, Nasheed said rival parties were “using religion as a political weapon” to level false accusations against the MDP.

The “bitter consequence” of persistently claiming that the MDP was “irreligious or secular” was the creation of doubt in younger generations regarding religion, Nasheed contended.

Divisive rhetoric

Arguing that the country’s religious unity could be threatened by “backbiting” and divisive rhetoric, Nasheed appealed to religious scholars to refrain “for the sake of religion and the nation” from religion-based attacks.

As the Islamic faith of Maldivians was not lost or weakened under Portuguese rule, Nasheed said there was no possibility of any efforts to weaken the people’s faith ever succeeding.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Lhaviyani Naifaru on Thursday night, Nasheed accused former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of obstructing the presidential election to prevent consolidation of democracy in the Maldives.

The MDP’s political opponents were against establishing a democratic system of governance in the country, he contended.

“President Maumoon is someone who has never won in a vote. [Maumoon] winning 90 percent of the vote in these islands was a miracle, it wasn’t an election,” he said.

Elections were the means for ensuring development, Nasheed said, adding that the experience of the past two years have shown that only the MDP could govern in a democratic system.

Addressing supporters in Shaviyani Milandhoo the following night (November 1), Nasheed said MDP’s opponents were trying to maintain a “dictatorial regime” after preventing a presidential election from taking place.

“They do not want development. In truth, they despise the situation of the Maldivian people improving. They believe that development is an obstacle to their own businesses. They believe others entering the resort business is an obstacle to their businesses,” he said.

Meanwhile, speaking at a campaign rally on Saturday night (November 2) in Haa Alif Kelaa, vice presidential candidate of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, reportedly said that Nasheed must be held accountable for the military’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

“I will only believe that the rule of law is enforced in the Maldives when the court sentences Nasheed for detaining Judge Abdulla. No one should doubt that this will happen. Nasheed must also be penalised for fraudulently selling the airport to GMR, the serious acts of corruption he committed, and the MVR 5 billion he stole while he was president,” he was quoted as saying by Sun Online.

Jameel also accused the MDP of torching government buildings on February 8, 2012, which he labeled “acts of terrorism,” and claimed that the party was also behind the brutal murder of MP Afrasheem Ali in October 2012.

The MDP could not return to power for these reasons, Jameel said, calling on other parties to unite and prevent Nasheed from winning the election.


Maldives’ Elections Commission calls on “all friends of democracy” for help conducting presidential poll as scheduled

The re-registration process for the presidential election first round – scheduled for November 9 – ends today at 10pm tonight (October 25).

Newly eligible voters and those who will be voting in a location other than their home island can collect forms from the Elections Commission Secretariat in Male’, from Island Council offices and online.

After re-registration is completed, the EC will receive rejected re-registration forms tomorrow (October 26). On the same day, the names of elections day officials will be sent to candidates for vetting as outlined in the SC guidelines.

“The Elections Commission of Maldives calls upon all friends of democracy to help us deliver a free, fair, transparent and inclusive presidential election as scheduled on 9 November 2013”, said a commission statement yesterday.

“So far over seventy million Maldivian Rufiyaa [US$ 4,566,240] has been spent on the unsuccessful attempts to hold the Presidential Election in the Maldives,” the Elections Commission (EC) stated in a press release issued Wednesday (October 23).

State-funded programs had to be halted in order to hold the October 19 re-vote, Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad has said previously.

This is the fourth time in two months the EC is preparing to hold a poll for the Maldives’ presidential election.

The September 7 first round poll received a unanimous positive assessment by more than a thousand local and international election observers, before Jumhooree Party (JP)’s leader, Gasim Ibrahim, who placed third in the poll refused to accept the results.

After agreeing to hear Gasim’s complaints, the Supreme Court then issued an injunction on September 23 to indefinitely delay the presidential election’s second round, before the police physically halted the EC’s ongoing preparations for the September 28 run-off.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled to annul the first round – citing a secret police report which alleged electoral fraud, but was never presented to the EC’s lawyers – and delineated 16 guidelines to hold a revote by October 20.

With just 11 days to prepare for the next round of the presidential election – a process that usually requires a minimum of 45 days –  the Supreme Court issued subsequent rulings dictating managerial and administrative tasks the EC must undertake while preparing for the repeat first round.

The apex court’s guidelines also mandated police play a substantive role in handling the logistics and security of the election and ballot papers, as well as demanded that all parties sign the voter lists, effectively giving presidential candidates veto power.

The day before the scheduled October 19 election, candidates Abdulla Yameen and Gasim had still not signed the voter lists and were not responding to phone calls from the EC or officials sent to their homes. The pair subsequently demanded extensive fingerprint verification of the new voters’ registry – another stipulation of the Supreme Court midnight rulings.

The same evening both candidates sought a Supreme Court ruling demanding that the election be delayed.

Receiving only a brief instruction from the court to follow its guidelines, the EC prioritised the guideline requiring an election before Oct 20 and proceeded with the vote.

However, an hour before polls were due to open on October 19 police obstructed EC staff attempting to leave the commission’s office with ballot documents and equipment – later stating that police had decided not to provide cooperation to the EC as it had not followed the 16-point guidelines imposed by the court.

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has since concluded that police illegally blocked the EC from conducting the re-vote of the presidential election on October 19 in contravention of the constitution, the Police Act, and the Elections Act.

Following the rescheduling of the election for November 9 – just two days before the end of the presidential term – Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek labelled the Supreme Court’s guidelines “restrictions” and expressed concern that they effectively allowed political parties to stop elections from happening.

The Elections Commission’s statement issued Thursday (October 24) recounts the presidential elections saga that has taken place over the last two months:

As mandated by the Constitution and Electoral Laws of the country, Elections Commission of the Maldives (ECM) held the first round of the presidential election 2013 on 7th September 2013. The conduction of the election was smooth and orderly without any serious cause for concern. National and international observers praised the election as free, fair, transparent and inclusive. In fact many international observers described the conduction of the election as one of the most peaceful and best they have observed. ECM was hailed for the way they have carried out such a smooth and peaceful election. One of the non-governmental organisations (NGO)’s stated that compilation of the voters’ list was excellent with a probable error rate lower than one percent. However one of the competing parties (Jumhooree Party) filed a case at the Supreme Court of Maldives to invalidate the election mostly arguing on the accuracy of the voters’ list. The Supreme Court after 22 days of deliberation found that the ECM had over five thousand (5000) fraudulent names on the voters’ list and annulled the result of the election. Since no candidate had achieved over 50 percent of the voters in the first round, ECM was on the verge of conducting the second round of the presidential election on 28th September 2013 when the Supreme Court ordered to annul the first round of the election. And as a consequence of annulment of the first round, the runoff was cancelled.

The main reason for the annulment of the election was based on discrepancies in the name or addresses of the voters. Nine hundred and fifty two (952) votes were invalidated due to slight differences in the name of the voters (some examples of discrepancies included Mariyam Sheran Mohamed Waheed Deen in the voters’ list as opposed to Mariyam Sheran Waheed Deen in the National Register and Ali Rila in the voters’ list was spelled as Ali Riza in the National Register etc.). Two thousand eight hundred and thirty (2830) votes were invalidated because the address in the voters’ list differed from their permanent addresses in the National Register even though their National Identity Card number and date of birth were the same and their National ID photo matched with the person who voted.

The Supreme Court ordered re-polling under a 16 point guideline set out by the Supreme Court and ordered that first round of the presidential election to be held before 20th October 2013 and should a runoff be required, to hold the second round before 3rd November 2013. One of the most contentious clauses in the guideline was clause number five which gives veto power to candidates to reject the voters’ list.

The first round of the presidential election was set to take place on 19th October 2013. After the lists were finalized candidates were given time to sign the final voters’ list. Mr Gasim Ibrahim (Jumhooree Party) and Mr Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom (Progressive Party of Maldives) refused to sign the voters’ list. The reason for refusal being that they were unable to verify the voters’ list. Mr Mohamed Nasheed (Maldivian Democratic Party) signed the voters’ list. Even though two candidates refused to sign the list, ECM was preparing to go ahead with the election as scheduled. However due to police action in the early hours of 19th October 2013 (polling day) ECM was prevented from conducting the election. The police refused to provide security to the ballot paper and also prevented election related materials being taken out of the ECM office making it impossible to hold the election.

ECM has now again rescheduled the first round of election to take place on 9th November 2013 and to hold the second round (if required) on 16th November 2013. ECM has requested assurances from President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik that this time, election should not be disrupted by security services and to facilitate the smooth conduction of the election.

So far over seventy million Maldivian Rufiyaa has been spent on the unsuccessful attempts to hold the presidential election in the Maldives. Elections Commission of Maldives calls upon all friends of democracy to help us deliver a free, fair, transparent and inclusive presidential election as scheduled on 9th November 2013. The runoff (if required) is scheduled to take place on 16th November 2013.


Comment: The Maldives, Egypt and the revenge of the deep state

When Mohamed Mursi was ousted in Egypt in June, the Muslim Brotherhood decried it as the revenge of the “deep state.”

They said that in the days of the revolution in January 2011, they had managed to cut off the head of the Mubarak regime, but in the two years that followed they failed to pull out the roots.

And so a loose coalition of politicians, bureaucrats and security forces – the remnants of the old regime – gathered together and slowly hacked away at the new government.

The climax came in June, Mursi flinched and the forces of the deep state took their chance.

Today, Hosni Mubarak is free, Muslim Brotherhood activities are again banned, and the revolution of 2011 appears to be slowly unravelling.

A lot remains unclear. Will scheduled elections actually happen? Will they be free and fair? What will Egypt look like a decade from now?

The Maldives might offer an answer.

An island of chaos

When Mohamed Nasheed was ousted in February 2012, the Maldivian Democratic Party also decried it as the revenge of the “deep state.”

“Dictatorships don’t always die when the dictator leaves office,” Nasheed wrote in the New York Times that week.

Given what we know now, his words were remarkably prescient.

“The wave of revolutions that toppled autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen last year was certainly cause for hope. But the people of those countries should be aware that, long after the revolutions, powerful networks of regime loyalists can remain behind and can attempt to strangle their nascent democracies.”

This process happened in the Maldives over a year before Mursi was locked up.

Since then, the country has stumbled towards elections, led by a lame-duck president and pulled in two directions by rival clans – one loyal to Mohamed Nasheed and a reformist, democratic ideology and one to the former leader for 30 years, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and a conservative, autocratic government.

Two competing tribes

Educated at Egypt’s Al Azhar University, Gayoom took power in 1978 and continued to govern based on a centralised system of patronage.

Never winning an election by less than 90 per cent, he relied on island chiefs, or ‘khateebs’, to keep control of 200 disparate island-communities. Gayoom’s government appointed them, as well as judges, bureaucrats and the top police and military officers.

Over three decades, he grew the roots of the Maldives’ “deep state.”

But by 2004, with tourism booming and the Maldives modernising, a new, democratic vision emerged under the yellow flag of the Maldivian Democratic Party.

Over the next four years, with the support of the West, Nasheed’s movement slowly forced Gayoom to launch a reform programme, pass a new constitution and hold free elections.

Nasheed won that battle after a second round run-off, but over the next three-and-a-half years, he failed to win the war to deconstruct the “deep state,” most notably the judiciary.

Judging the judiciary

With all the reforms of the last decade, the Maldives got new leaders and new members of parliament, but the judges stayed the same.

Article 285 of the country’s revised constitution envisaged a different judiciary – but it was dismissed as symbolic by a committee dominated by Gayoom’s former appointees.

The decision left the nation saddled with the judges from a former era.

‘They were hand-picked by Gayoom,’ says Maldivian journalist Zaheena Rasheed. “They lack education and some of them even have criminal records.”

The US State Department points out that of the Maldives’ magistrates, “an estimated quarter of the judges had criminal records, and two of the judges had been convicted of sexual assault.”

In again, out again

Having failed to clean up the judiciary by committee, Nasheed confronted them head on.

In a move that many criticised as dictatorial, he ordered the arrest of a politician who had allegedly accused him of carrying out a Christian-Jewish conspiracy in a Muslim country.

But the Criminal Court judge overruled Nasheed, triggering a bizarre series of arrests and releases which caused many to ask who was in control, the judges or the president?

Nasheed then ordered the arrest of the Criminal Court’s Chief Judge, accused of blocking attempts to prosecute former officials charged with corruption.

Three weeks of protests, followed by a mutiny by elements of the police and the military, and it became clear where power lay.

Nasheed fell from power and on February 7, he appeared on television and resigned.

“I have never wanted to rule by force,” he said. “I came to this decision because, in my opinion, I sincerely believe, that if this government is to be maintained, it would require the use of extreme force and cause harm to a lot of citizens.”

The next day he told reporters, “I was forced to resign at gunpoint.”

When an election is not an election

Nasheed’s deputy, Mohamed Waheed Hassan, took over and eventually took the country back to the ballot box on September 7.

Over 200,000 people voted, a turnout of more than 88 per cent. Nasheed fell short of a first-round win but took 45 per cent of the vote.

Gayoom’s half-brother, Abdulla Yameen, came second with 25 per cent.

Around 1,000 observers deemed it “a transparent and fair election”. It was ‘an achievement of which any of the mature democracies would have been proud,’” said J M Lyngdoh, head of the Indian election observer mission.

But then third-placed Qasim Ibrahim, Gayoom’s former finance minister, complained about electoral fraud. Gayoom himself also appeared on television to voice his concerns about the vote and within days, the Supreme Court had annulled the result. It cited a secret police report that claimed over 5,000 ballots were ineligible.

Gayoom was quick to tweet, “I welcome [the] Supreme Court’s historic decision last night because it upholds the Constitution [and] the right of the people to elect their leader in a free, fair, transparent [and] credible election.”

“A tool”

“The Supreme Court is being used as a tool by the people people who brought down Mohamed Nasheed’s government to prevent him returning to power,” says Aishath Velezinee.

She served as Deputy Home Minister under Nasheed and sat on the committee and campaigned to clean up the judiciary, but she was overruled.

The court’s ruling to void the September 7 election also included 16 recommendations on how to run another vote by October 20, narrowing the role of the Elections Commission and raising the involvement of other institutions, including the police.

“[The Supreme Court judges] are writing the law when they should be interpreting it,” says Rasheed.

A former UN worker, who did not want to be identified, goes further. ‘The bottom line is that this situation is ridiculous because the Supreme Court ruling is unconstitutional.’

The country is now waiting nervously to see if a vote can be held ahead of the deadline, and if so, what the result will be and if it will be respected.

Back to Egypt

If Egypt’s “deep state” is now back in control, it is also still considering what to do about elections.

Interim leaders have announced a roadmap which plans for both parliamentary and presidential votes to be completed by spring next year, but there is no guarantee that they will be free or fair, or that the result will be respected.

Egypt’s judiciary may become crucial, being called up on to rule on any disputes.

Is it up to the task?

Thousands of miles away in the Maldives, they know the importance of keeping the judiciary free from political interference.

Failing to clean it up “has been a grave mistake,” says Velezinee. ‘But it was impossible at the time. Everyone assumed the judiciary was untouchable.’

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


United States, India, HRCM, multiple NGOs back Elections Commission, urge presidential polling to take place Saturday

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has urged political parties to support the Elections Commission to hold the presidential election tomorrow, and called on “as many Maldivian citizens as possible to go out and vote”.

The United States has called on political leaders to ensure participatory democracy is not undermined, and expressed concern about the potential postponement of Saturday’s election.

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidates have demanded fingerprint verification of the finalised voter registry, with police refusing to support the election without the candidates’ signatures. After submitting letters to the Elections Commission (EC) soon after midnight, the party’s leaders have been unreachable.

Signing of the registry by the candidates is a new demand contained in the Supreme Court’s guidelines for the election, following its annulment of the first round of polls shortly before midnight on October 7.

“The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) urges political parties to prioritise national interest and support the elections commission in this difficult moment to hold the presidential election as scheduled,” the commission declared in a press statement issued today.

“We call on as many citizens as possible to go out to vote and not to obstruct the vote,” it added.

Earlier this week the HRCM member and acting chairperson Ahmed Tholal told local media that the commission had complete confidence in the Elections Commission’s ability to conduct the upcoming presidential election freely, fairly and in a transparent manner.

Multiple Maldivian and international civil society organisations have also called for the presidential election to be held as scheduled tomorrow.

United States and India

The United States Embassy in Colombo has also expressed concern that the October 19 election may be postponed, and called on political leaders to ensure participatory democracy is not undermined in a press statement today.

“Political leaders must come together to ensure that participatory democracy is not undermined and that free, fair, credible and inclusive elections can take place peacefully and in line with international standards. Further efforts to delay the electoral process could undermine the will of the people to choose their representative,” the US Embassy stated.

“The Electoral Commission has made concerted efforts to comply with the Supreme Court’s requirements for a new first round, including the re-registration of thousands of voters,” it noted. “The United States is concerned that the re-organised first round of the Maldivian presidential election, set for October 19, may now be postponed.”

The US also highlighted the Maldives’ constitutional requirement that a new president be sworn in by November 11, 2013.

India echoed the United States’ “deep concerns” that the presidential election may be further delayed and “once again urged the government of Maldives and presidential candidates” to hold the election tomorrow and uphold the Maldives’ constitution, in a press release issued by the High Commission of India in Male’ tonight.

“We call upon all political parties to show a spirit of understanding, cooperation and accommodation by supporting the efforts for holding elections as scheduled, including by accepting the voters’ register,” stated the Indian High Commission. “Holding of free, fair and credible elections without further delay is essential for fulfilling the political aspirations of the people of Maldives.”

President Mohamed Waheed has meanwhile urged parties “not to act in a fashion that obstructs holding of the election and to prioritise national interest over personal interest”.

Transparency Maldives

Local NGO Transparency Maldives has reiterated its appeal for the presidential election to take place as scheduled.

“We have previously called for the presidential election to be held in the timeframe stipulated within the constitution,” Transparency Maldives’ Advocacy and Communications Manager Aiman Rasheed told Minivan News today.

“In resolving the rising tensions and disagreements in the country, Transparency Maldives appeals to all actors, especially the Supreme Court, to uphold the spirit of the Constitution and electoral deadlines and respect people’s electoral choice,” reads a September 28 Transparency Maldives press statement.

The NGO also previously appealed to “all actors and institutions to refrain from undermining the integrity of and confidence in the election day processes without credible evidence of fraud.”

Rasheed noted that “We have already missed two deadlines: holding a runoff election within 21 days after the first round and holding an election 30 days prior to the expiry of the existing presidential term November 11,” as stated in articles 111 and 110 of the constitution.

“The only deadline that has not been missed is holding the presidential election before October 20,” he continued.

“The Supreme Court’s verdict mandates all state institutions, including political parties, must work with the Elections Commission to ensure a free and fair election,” he explained.

“An election cannot be held without everyone joining together – civil society, political parties, media, state institutions – to support the Elections Commission,” he added.

Meanwhile, the anti-corruption NGO has stated that it is “fully ready for extensive observation of the October 19 presidential election”.

Transparency fielded a team of 400 election monitors during the first round of September 7, stating that the process was fair and credible and that incidents observed on the day would not have had a material impact on the outcome of the election.

In late August, Transparency Maldives expressed doubts over the integrity of the Supreme Court, urging it to “maintain its actions in such a fashion that the court does not allow further diminishing of its integrity and to be transparent in its functioning and sharing of information to strengthen the public trust towards the institution.”

The NGO also recently noted that the failure of parliament and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to address alleged integrity issues of the Supreme Court judges have “created avenues for political and other actors to question the conduct, injunctions and verdicts of the Supreme Court”.

The Home Ministry this month announced that it would be investigating Transparency Maldives for challenging the Supreme Court, prompting the NGO’s international affiliate – Transparency International – to express its concern “grave concern” about staff and volunteer safety and “alarm” over the intimidation and public allegations threatening its Transparency Maldives chapter.

Maldives NGO Federation

In light of the HRCM statement, the Maldives NGO Federation, representing over 60 local civil society organisations, also reiterated its support for the Elections Commission.

“The NGO Federation of course appreciates the hard work of the Elections Commission and we fully trust in the work they are doing,” NGO Federation President Ahmed Nizam told Minivan News today.

“Given the Supreme Court’s verdict, it’s will not be very easy for the EC to go ahead and hold the election without political parties signing the voter registry. We are hopeful that the talks held tonight will help solve the issue,” he noted.

“I would like to believe that the political leaders of this country will be responsible people,” he continued. “And we stay hopeful that we will get the opportunity to exercise our constitutional right [to vote] tomorrow.”

“The EC Chairperson has said that even if the political parties sign the registry by 7:30am tomorrow morning the election can still be held,” he added.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling to indefinitely delay the presidential election’s September 28 second round until a verdict in the JP case against the EC had been reached, the NGO expressed concern over the election delay and urged the Supreme Court to deliver a speedy verdict and to allow elections to proceed as per the constitution.

The Home Ministry subsequently demanded the NGO provide a copy of its press release regarding the Supreme Court.

The NGO Federation also recently expressed its concern that political parties have been attempting to discredit the Elections Commission by inciting hatred toward the institution in an effort to obstruct the holding of a free and fair presidential election.

The NGO Federation declared their confidence in the EC and noted the essential role the commission has played in holding free and fair elections over the past five years.

International Federation of Human Rights

International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) NGO said it is continuing to observe developments in the Maldives, and is calling for the outgoing government to ensure Maldivian people were given their right to vote in a free and fair election held in accordance with international standards.

Expressing concern about “mixed signals” being given to Maldivian people and the international community about holding an election, the international NGO said there was growing anxiety around the world for voting to be held without further delays.

FIDH said it continued to hold particular concern over the decision by the country’s Supreme Court to annul the first round of the presidential election held on September 7 – an order it claimed, in a joint statement with the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), was “unjustifiable”.

“The unjustifiable delay and judicially forceful suspension of the second round of the election, due on 28 September, indicates an encroachment of the judiciary over the powers of the Elections Commission, an independent constitutional body answerable to the Parliament of the Maldives,” read the statement from MDN and FIDH on October 8.

The statement described the court’s verdict as being founded on “materially baseless arguments”, after the first round was “applauded as a success by the international community.”

“Maldivian authorities must swiftly bring the electoral process to an end, in a free and fair manner,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji at the time.


Comment: The devil is in the judiciary

This article first appeared on Dhivehi Sitee. Republished with permission.

Judicial independence is generally accepted to be a protection from the government or the legislative majority. If rulers are to be controlled, then, rule of law—which checks their power—must remain immune to their influence. But that raises the question: who checks the independence of the judiciary? Checkers being unchecked is an inherent weakness in the role attributed to rule of law in democratic theory.

There are limits, but they are easy to overcome.

One such limit on judicial power is the law. As MDP’s presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed said on Saturday, judges speak the law, they do not make it. The role of the unelected judiciary is to execute the law enacted according to the will of the elected parliament. But the opportunity to override this limitation is frequently open to the judiciary. When laws are ambiguous, for example, it is the judges who interpret them, and this interpretation comes close to legislation. Precedents are set that must be followed, law-like.

Another restriction on judicial power is the principles of justice: if rule of law is inseparable from a political theory of rights, it means that judges must not only enforce laws, but must also be guided by certain judicial principles. But there are no mechanisms to ensure that such principles are adhered to—they can be easily ignored in the ‘right’ political and social environment as can be seen from the behaviour of the Maldives Supreme Court examined below.

The third restriction on judicial power is administrative—internal checks on the checkers. These include the hierarchy of courts—one court above checking the one below; ethical and professional requirements that should stop just anyone becoming a judge; and disciplinary action and legal liability that stops judges from straying the course. But who enforces these checks? The checkers themselves. In the Maldives, it is the responsibility of the Judicial Service Commission, which is under tight control of certain members of the judiciary.

In a democracy, judges are ‘protected, unchecked, and unaccountable’, and ‘we do not know why the judiciary would be politically impartial and neutral’. Often, therefore—especially, but not always, in consolidating democracies—rule of law becomes an instrument of political power.

For politicians both in government and opposition who are looking for allies to help them achieve their goals, judges—’unchecked agents whose decisions are binding’—are an attractive prospect that cannot be ignored. Over the years, several strategies have become common place: 1) politicians using democracy to subordinate the judiciary and overcome the limits set by rule of law; and 2) politicians using existing norms and independent judges to undermine democracy as a regime; and 3) although democracy is preserved, the independence of judges is turned into a political instrument to get rid of an opponent if the rules of democratic competition are not enough[1].

The Supreme Court as a political weapon to undermine democracy

The 2008 Constitution of the Maldives, based on democratic principles, envisions an ideal world where democracy and an independent judiciary co-exist in harmony and support each other. In reality, this is hard to achieve not just in the Maldives but in most newly democratising countries. In three years of democracy, Maldives did not come even close to the ideal.  The judiciary left behind by the authoritarian regime, and which remained mostly unchanged after the assumption of democratic governance, has constantly been used by politicians as a political weapon—most often as a strategy for 1) undermining democracy as a regime, and 2) to get rid of an opponent while preserving the façade of a democracy. The role of the judiciary in the downfall of the Maldivian democracy in February 2012, and in the authoritarian reversal that has followed, is by now well documented. Its current role is to prevent the restoration of democracy. To execute the strategy, anti-democratic politicians have adopted a majority of the Supreme Court bench as their main instrument.

On 7 October 2013, just before midnight, the Supreme Court issued a majority ruling making void the first round of the second democratic election in the Maldives. The election was held on 7 September 2013 and was widely heralded as free, fair and virtually free of error. Initially, only Jumhooree Party (JP), led by tourism magnate, Qasim Ibrahim, disagreed. He filed a case at the High Court on 11 September (01/SH-I-HC/2013) alleging that the Eligible Voters Registry used in the election included ‘hundreds of ineligible voters, several repeated voters’ and ‘several thousand voters’ whose addresses were problematic. JP wanted the court to allow it access to the Eligible Voter Registry. The High Court ruled in JP’s favour, ordering that JP and other contestants in the election be allowed to see the list.

But, before the High Court ruling (on 17 September), JP filed a new case at the Supreme Court on 15 September (42/C-SC/2013), treating it as a court of first instance, rather than the apex court. The Supreme Court accepted the role it was given, and later justified it by saying that Article 113 and Article 145(c) of the Constitution states that it has the final word on any matter relating to the Constitution. There is room to contradict this interpretation of the Constitution, as outlined in the opinion of Justice Mu’thasim Adnan, one of three Supreme Court justices who dissented.

JP made three submissions:

  1. The presidential election on 7 September 2013 violated relevant articles of the Constitution, Elections Law and Supreme Court ruling 39/C-SC/2013 (2 September 2013). Therefore, Supreme Court must rule that it is the right of all candidates to have access to the voters list.
  2. The eligible voters list used for the 7 September 2013 election did not fit the required legal framework or Supreme Court ruling 39/C-SC/2013. Therefore, Supreme Court must rule that it is not a valid list.
  3. The election violated basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution as well as breached Constitutional provisions and laws related to elections in addition to falling outside of the state Constitutional framework. Therefore, with reference to Article 113 of the Constitution, Article 10 (b), Article 11 (a)1 and 3 of the Courts Act, the Supreme Court must rule the election as void.

The case, which lasted from 15 September to 7 October was a farce from beginning to end. Very few legal concepts and principles are left that it did not undermine.

It may as well have been written by Kafka

First, none of the Justices would be on the bench if Article 285 of the Constitution were followed. As discussed earlier, measures available in a democracy to check the checkers are limited. In the Maldives, Article 285 of the Constitution, which outlined the qualifications and professional standards of judges, was one of such limitation imposed on judicial power.

But, with the Judicial Service Commission—-constitutionally mandated to check judicial powers—at the helm,Article 285 was dismissed as symbolic, meaning that an overwhelming majority of the country’s judiciary sits in breach of the Constitution.  The Supreme Court’s ‘ascension’ to the bench was doubly unconstitutional. Moreover, several of the judges on the Supreme Court bench are facing allegations of serious offences or misconduct. The main offenders are Ali Hameed, Adam Mohamed, Abdulla Saeed, and Abdulla Didi. [Theallegations against them are summed up here, on Minivan News.]

Second, most of the evidence presented in the case should not have been deemed admissible. Several witnesses were allowed to give evidence in ‘secret’, as if this was a major criminal investigation where witnesses had to be given protection in case of retaliation by a dangerous defendant. This was, as the Supreme Court was anxious to reiterate, ‘a constitutional matter’. Third, the State Attorney General entered the case to submit arguments against Elections Commission, a state institution. Media reports of the time revealed that AG Azima Shakoor did not even speak to the Elections Commission, an independent state institution,  for clarification of the allegations against it before deciding to side with JP, a political party.

The four Justices, meanwhile, refused to give a fair hearing to the defendant, frequently shutting EC lawyers down in the middle of an argument, or generally disregarding their arguments and submissions. Lawyers for MDP, which like Azima Shakoor had entered the case as a third party, were ejected from the proceedings and held in contempt of court for discussing the case [more specifically the judges] in public. EC lawyer Husnu Suood was given the same treatment, forcing the Commission to find a replacement at short notice. The Supreme Court ordered a report from an ‘expert forensics team’ from the Maldives Police Service (MPS) on its own initiative, and gave them access to all election-related data and the Department of National Registration (DNR) database which holds personal information and fingerprints of the entire population.

The Supreme Court allowed the case to drag on, scheduling the case, cancelling and then rescheduling at whim. It kept odd hours, often sitting late at night, and announcing decisions after midnight. Throughout the duration of the case, Male’ was in a state of unrest as MDP members and other disenfranchised voters continued to protest in the vicinity of the Supreme Court daily. Late in the evening of 23 September, five days before the scheduled second round of the election, the Supreme Court issued an injunction calling a halt to all preparations for it. The court order, signed by the same four judges named above, gave no date on which the second round could be held, making the postponement indefinite.

On 26 September it issued another ruling (06/SC-SJ/2013) again around midnight, ordering the security forces to enforce its order to postpone the election and to halt any preparations for the second round by anyone. With this order, the Supreme Court took the responsibility of conducting the election away from the Constiutionally mandated Elections Commission (EC) and placed it firmly in the hands of the security forces.

The Maldives Police Service, led by rogue Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, immediately descended on the EC in what amounted to a siege of the premises. Although defiant at first, and determined to hold the second round despite the Supreme Court order—which its lawyers described as unconstitutional—president of the Elections Commission Fuad Thowfeeq announced on 27 September, on the eve of the scheduled second round, that lack of co-operation from the security forces and other essential state institutions meant that the election could not go ahead.

As disenfranchised voters took to the streets with increased frustration, the Supreme Court plodded along with the case. The police were invited to work within the premises of the court, and finally, allowed to submit a ‘secret report’ which the Elections Commission, as the defendant was not allowed to see. That report, on which the Supreme Court based most of its decision to cancel the election, is still a secret. But, from what one of the dissenting judges, Justice Mu’thasim Adnan said, it contained nothing that justified annulling the first round of the election held on 7 September. [Here is another report prepared by the same ‘expert’ police team on 15 September, which gives an indication of the standard the Supreme Court’s report is most likely to be of]. 

After two weeks of deliberation of the above evidence, the Supreme Court reached the majority verdict to annul the first round held on 7 September. Yet again, the verdict was announced at midnight, and was accompanied by brutal ‘enforcement’ by the security forces. Rogue Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz’s Special Operations (SO) police, guarding the Supreme Court premises throughout the case and monitoring the constantly present protesters in the vicinity, charged into the public at precisely the moment the court announced its decision. Pepper-spray and disproportional force were used to disperse the crowd. The message was clear: any defiance of the Supreme Court order to annul the election would not be tolerated and would be violently subdued by security forces working in tandem with the four judges.

Subverting democracy with the rule of law

A subsequent detailed MDP analysis of the Supreme Court verdict comparing it to the secret Police Forensic Experts Report shows that in actuality, the total number of votes that could have been cast fraudulently is an astounding 242 (two hundred and forty two).

That the Supreme Court ruled in this way based on such flimsy and fictitious ‘evidence’ is proof of its politicisation and demonstrates how it is being used by politicians as a means of a) undermining democracy as a regime and b) getting rid of an opponent who cannot be eliminated by abiding by the principles of democracy. Cancelling the election puts anti-democracy politicians well on the path to realising both goals. To ensure that the destination is arrived at, first the Supreme Court ordered that a re-run of the cancelled first round be held before 20th October. This gave the Elections Commission a grand total of 12 days in which to organise everything for an election in which over 240,000 eligible voters are expected to vote. It also issued Guidelines consisting of 16 conditions the Elections Commission must abide by in it preparations  for the election.

In addition to these orders aimed at making an election as difficult as possible, the Supreme Court verdict also acted against several principles of democracy and rule of law, which as discussed earlier, are among the few limitations meant to check judicial power discussed at the beginning of this analysis. This included infringing heavily on the role of the Elections Commission, not only setting a new date before which the election should be held (12 days from the verdict) but also strict guidelines according to which the election must be conducted.

These included more restrictions of democratic values and principles such as the an order minimising access to polling booths by media and independent observers, helping obscure what is meant to be a transparent process. The court also ordered that all voters who registered to vote in the second round in an electoral area outside of their home address re-register. The order also stipulated that the re-registration form should bear the fingerprint of the voter, two witnesses, and if the form was being submitted by another person on behalf of the voter, the fingerprint of that person too.

The underlying ethos of the entire ruling is that there should be as many restrictions placed on the right to vote as possible rather than facilitate it being extended to as many as possible.  Most subversively, the Supreme Court verdict does this by invoking the principle of universal suffrage. Everybody has the right to vote, therefore, we will make sure as few people as possible can do so.

The unnecessary assumption of dangerous powers

One of the gravest threats to democratic governance included in the Supreme Court ruling is the power it has given itself  to invoke the principle of necessity to resolve the current dispute should it deem fit to do so. As mentioned at the beginning of this analysis, the power to interpret laws can be akin to the power to legislate.

In 2009, the Supreme Court considered the legality of delaying parliamentary elections scheduled for 15 February 2009 by Article 296(a) of the Constitution. On 13 January 2009 it issued a ruling (02/C-SC/2009) stating that only a natural disaster beyond human control or a state of war  would justify delaying the completion of a task specified in the Constitution, as specified in the Constitution and within the time specified. The verdict of 7 October, not only breaches this verdict of its own (as highlighted in Justice Mu’thasim Adnan’s dissenting opinion in 42/C-SC/2013) but also adds ‘necessity’ to natural disaster and state of war as conditions under which such a Constitutional deadline can be neglected without legal liability.

Necessity, Machiavelli’s guiding principle, is based on the belief that infringing on the moral law is justified when necessary. It allows an actor to engage in conduct that would under normal circumstances be deemed illegal because it is ‘necessary’. The principle has a long philosophical and juridical history, and has been invoked by countries to declare a state of exception, a state of emergency and martial law. The principle is easy to distort; as Cromwell put it, ‘necessity hath no law.’ It was in this state of exception based on the principle of necessity, for example, that the United States deemed many illegal acts, such as torture, legal during the War on Terror. US government lawyers argued then that the defence of necessity permitted acts of torture that violated domestic and international laws[2].

The Supreme Court’s decision to include ‘necessity’ among the conditions in which the Constitution can be legally ignored has allowed the Constitutional deadline (Article 110) to elect a new president at least 30 days prior to the expiry of the current presidential term on 11 November to lapse without legal liability. According to the Supreme Court verdict, there is no judicial or legal basis to argue that the time the Court took to deliberate the case was responsible for the lapse—it is the duty of the Court to properly and duly examine any allegation that a state institution has acted unconstitutionally. The deadline was bypassed not because of its own actions in delaying the case for so long, but because a state institution (namely the Elections Commission), in meeting the Constitutional deadline for presidential elections, acted outside of the Constitution. Therefore, under the principle of necessity, the Court’s lengthy and erratic deliberations, during which time the Constitutional deadline passed, can be deemed legal.

Responding to the argument that this lapsed Constitutional deadline to have a new president elected and ready to takeover on 11 November before 12 October means that the Maldives entered a constitutional void, the Court again invokes the principle of necessity to deny the accusation. And what occurred when the deadline lapsed, says the Supreme Court, is not a constitutional void but a ‘defacto state’ in which the doctrines of ‘state of necessity’ and ‘continuity of legal government’ allow the extra-legal extension of the Constitutional deadline to be deemed legal. In other words, by invoking the principle of necessity, the Supreme Court has assumed the power to deem the unconstitutional and illegal continuation of the current government as legal.

How long would the state of ‘necessary’ exception continue?

According to the Supreme Court, the Maldives is now in a ‘defacto state’ where it is possible to invoke the principle of necessity—by the Supreme Court—whenever it sees fit or until such time as elections are held. What has become crystal clear, especially in the days following the Supreme Court verdict, that it is working with political parties, most obviously former authoritarian ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), to obstruct the elections as much as possible.

As discussed above, the Supreme Court’s verdict to annul the election came with strict Guidelines that make preparations nigh on impossible. Since then, the Court has issued one additional order that eases the restrictions (allowing media access to the polling booths on election day) and two orders that further complicates the preparations. All three orders were issued at midnight and signed only by the Chief Justice. The Supreme Court has not sat together as a group since.

This is because, after issuing the ruling, the most corrupt of the judges, Ali Hameed, flew to Mecca for the Haj pilgrimage in what appears to be a cynical attempt to duck and cover behind religion.  At a time when the stability of the nation hangs in balance, his eagerness to seek forgiveness for the sin of fornication could have taken a form that does not require being abroad. Repentance, for instance, is locally available to ‘Justice’ Hameed by admitting to the multiple incidents of fornication the nation has borne witness to, and accepting a public flogging.  This would have the added benefit of Hameed being able to attend to the judicial duties he has given himself tenure to perform for as long as he lives.

The whereabouts of the rest of the other three judges who have worked with Hameed to bring the Maldivian democracy to its knees is not known. Taking on their subversive role and performing it with double eagerness is Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz, one of the three judges who dissented to the majority verdict annulling the election. The first of Faiz’s rulings was on Thursday October 10, ordering that the Elections Commission start the re-registration process from scratch; the second was on October 12 relaxing restrictions on the media outlined in the 7 October verdict; and the third, issued midnight on Sunday October 13 allowing fingerprint verification if any party complains, has the potential to make the election before 20 October absolutely impossible despite the Elections Commission’s determination that this not be the case.

As stated before, for as long as there is no election, the country remains in the ‘defacto state’ where the Supreme Court has given itself the power to invoke the principle of necessity and to make legal actions that are unconstitutional and illegal. Rogue Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, the disgracefully retired former Colonel who (with rogue Police Commissioner Riyaz) was instrumental in bringing the first democratic government to an end on 7 February 2012, has denied that he, and other coup-makers, are planning a military takeover. Experience has proven Nazim’s word means nothing, so such a circumstance cannot be ruled out. But, given that the Supreme Court has invoked the principle of necessity and already declared as legal the unconstitutional [and from the beginning illegitimate] ‘coalition government’ of Waheed, the declaration of martial law becomes a moot point. All it would take to stall the restoration of democracy in the Maldives indefinitely is for the Supreme Court to continue its declared State of Necessity where the rule of law is nothing but a political weapon for the subversion of democracy.

What is currently playing out in the Maldives is an all-out confrontation between democracy and autocracy in which the biggest weapon of the autocrats is the judicial independence that is widely accepted as a means of making democracy possible. If there ever was a text-book case of democracy being subverted by the rule of law, the unfolding events in the Maldives is it. If there is no election on 20 October, the only power that can stand up to the unchecked power of the judiciary is the source from which both judicial power and democracy stems: the power of the people.

Dr Azra Naseem has a PhD in International Relations

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


US “deeply concerned” about legal actions potentially delaying Maldives’ October 19 election

New voters and voters who wish to vote from a location other than their home island must submit the NEW fingerprint re-registration form by 4:30pm Saturday October 12, in line with Thursday night’s Supreme Court ruling. People who re-registered prior to the Sept 7 election will need to complete the process again, or may be unable to vote. Fingerprint forms submitted on Oct 9-10 will still be valid.

Forms are available at all island council offices, Addu City Council departments, party offices, diplomatic missions and at In Malé forms will be accepted at the Elections Commission’s registration center on Handhuvaree Hingun.

Check your registration by SMSing 1414 ‘VIS ID#’, call the hotline on the same number, or visit

The US has said it is “deeply concerned” about continued legal actions “that could further delay the Maldivian presidential election”.

The Supreme Court opened at midnight on Thursday in response to a petition from the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), and ordered the Elections Commission to redo the entire voter re-registration process, despite previously ordering polls to be held before October 20.

Earlier in same day the PPM had sought to file another petition to bar former President Mohamed Nasheed from the polls on the grounds of him being “irreligious” and critical of the judiciary, although this appeared to stall following dissent within the party.

“It is important that the [election] go forward unimpeded in a fair, inclusive and transparent way,” said Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department, Marie Harf, in a statement.

“The basis of any democracy is for citizens to choose their government, for political differences to be decided at the ballot box in an environment free of violence and for election results to be respected,” the statement read.

“We continue to urge a peaceful political process that is inclusive of all candidates in order to ensure the Maldivian election that will meet international standards of an elected, legitimate democracy,” it concluded.

The statement followed UK Foreign Secretary William Hague’s urging of presidential candidates “to act in line with the interests of the people of Maldives”.

“It is imperative that there are no further delays and the elections be free, fair and inclusive, and that international observers are invited,” the Foreign Secretary said.

“Cynical attempt to delay election”: MDP

Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile begun the task of re-registering tens of thousands of voters, in line with the Supreme Court order. Re-registration is required for new voters or people wishing to vote at a location other than their home island, with almost 65,000 people re-registering in the annulled first round – almost 30 percent of the voter turnout.

At the same time the MDP condemned Thursday’s ruling, warning that it risked further delaying the elections.

“The MDP is extremely concerned that the Supreme Court is interfering in the electoral process for political reasons, issuing unconstitutional rulings and acting with impunity,” said the MDP in a statement.

“The MDP fears that the PPM is seeking to delay the elections and also disenfranchise overseas and resort-based voters, who will now likely have to re-register and who tend to vote overwhelmingly in favour of President Nasheed,” the party stated.

“This is a cynical attempt by the PPM and the Supreme Court to prevent elections from taking place next week,” said the party’s spokesperson, MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor.

“The PPM is running scared of the voters because they know they will lose a free and fair election., and the Supreme Court is facilitating the subversion of the democratic process.”

The party reaffirmed its confidence in the embattled Elections Commission, and called on security forces and the international community to ensure the Commission’s protection.

PPM MP Ahmed Nihan meanwhile told Minivan News last night that he believed the Supreme Court’s latest order would mean additional delays to the voting, currently scheduled for October 19.


Comment: Maldivian Democracy – Where to from here?

“Maldives can never have stability through elections which has opposition Maldivian Democratic Party presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed’s name on the ballot”

“We will not hand over [power] through an election, [we] will not hand over even if he gets elected”

“Election fraud should be investigated and the election commissioner should resign”

– Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) vice presidential candidate Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed

These are not political statements. This is not political discourse. This is not democratic discourse. We call ourselves a democracy – a young democracy. But these statements are the symptoms and early warning signals of a failing democracy.

Failing democracy

There are different versions and theories on what a ‘true democracy’ is, even though I believe that term is flawed to the core. No system is perfect and a ‘true democracy’ is too ambitious an aspiration to be realistically achievable. At the same time, democracy is also not just giving everyone above 18 a right to vote and a right to represent.

Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) runs an annual survey for a ‘Democracy Index’, which rates various sovereign countries across the world on how effective they are as democracies. They rate countries on five arameters which are commonly accepted as relevant for judging the strength of democracies: 1) Electoral process and pluralism; 2) Functioning of government; 3) Political participation; 4) Democratic political culture; 5) Civil liberties. While this annual ‘Democracy Index’ typically covers around 160 – 165 countries across the world, the Maldives is not ranked. One can go through the details of this index here and build their own perspective on how well are we doing on this.

My summary view on the state of Maldivian democracy based on an assessment of these parameters is that we are a democracy on ventilator, desperately gasping for life. The statements by a vice presidential candidate highlighted above are a reflection on the sanctity of our electoral process, rather the lack of it. No only this, ours is a democracy where the Supreme Court decides on the sanctity of electoral process based on a ‘secret report’ by the police without even giving a chance to the Elections Commission, or anyone else, to see the report – let alone comment on it. At the same time, one only needs to see through the various actions of the current government to see that we clearly fail on the parameter of functioning of government, with the rampant corruption and decisions that are typically taken under the influence of one of the president’s allies or the other.

President Waheed has been sanctioning millions of dollars’ worth of favours to the people who put him in power – £5million payments to Grant Thornton to stop corruption investigations against Abdulla Yameen, and the arbitrary 99-year lease extension for Mamigili airport are just a couple of cases in point. The recent decision by Waheed’s cabinet to sell MACL shares in the course of a week, while being totally silent on the valuation or process for sale as well as the role of the Majlis or the privatization board in the same is a further example of absolute failure of governance, which is marred by corruption, in our democracy.

Civil liberties, or the lack of them, is the most significant problem for us today. None of the media houses are independent since their owners are aligned with one political party or the other – a case in point is a recent headline in a national electronic newspaper which said “Nasheed doesn’t have time’ for second round presidential debate” while referring to the cancellation of MBC’s presidential debate. Brutal crackdowns on anti-government protestors are a norm of the day and tolerance for the opposition view is totally amiss from governance.

As for a democratic political culture, our country is being run by a ‘president-by-chance’ who has no popular support and who has been totally inept at maintaining public order, largely because he represents the old order and vested interests who brought him to power. It is only political participation that is the last remaining hope for the Maldivian democracy, and I am proud to say that we may be one of the best in the world on this parameter, but I fear we are starting to view our democracy in this very narrow perspective.

Constitutional void or civil disobedience or much more?

It is apparent from the discussion above that Maldivian democracy is faced with a number of challenges that threaten its very existence. What started in February 2012 was a political turmoil. Where we are at today is a constitutional void – where no one knows who has the power on which matters, and everything is a question of interpretation of the constitution. The more worrisome aspect, after this Supreme Court judgement on validity of elections, is where do we go from here?

Whether the Supreme Court had the power to cancel the second round or not is still in question – the executive was only too happy to implement its orders anyhow without regard to the powers of the constitutional institutions such as the elections commission. Whether they were right in annulling the first round, on the basis of a report the existence of which is in question, is an even bigger question. Parliamentary supremacy is a bit of an unknown concept in our democracy and anyone and everyone seems to challenge it based on their convenience – be it challenging the position of the speaker, or validity of seats of opposition MPs, or the simplest of things like not destroying the audio systems just to stop the other side from making their case.

The questions are many and there are no clear answers. Can the elections commission ensure a free and fair election with the high level of control that has now been given to the Maldives police? Will the Maldives’ police, who are led by a man recently reprimanded by integrity commission for his anti-Nasheed activism in the forces, really allow a free and fair election? Will any election in which Nasheed wins, despite any odds, be conceded as a free and fair election? What will deter the losers of the re-election from running to the Supreme Court again pleading some other kind of foul play and getting the elections annulled once again? Will Nasheed supporters accept a defeat calmly and with grace, without crying foul play, having received 45 percent votes in the annulled elections? Now that the sanctity of the electoral process has been undermined significantly, what is the way out of this situation?

Using undue influence over the Supreme Court to play with the electoral process is not an acceptable answer for one side of the political spectrum. Disqualifying the most popular candidate from contesting the elections or not letting him take power – even if he wins the election and possibly even a re-election – is clearly not a plausible answer for the other side. This is a stark conflict and everyone is getting involved. Even the MNDF is getting politicised and polarised, along with the customs, air traffic control, and resort employees. That this conflict will only escalate further is increasingly likely and the recent arson attack on pro-opposition Raajje TV is an early warning signal of how bad things can get, if not checked in time.

Where to from here in search of solutions?

A conflict where a large proportion of people with a political voice start looking at every action of the state with suspicion is mostly avoidable. No one likes conflict and certainly not a violent conflict. With everything that is going on in the rest of the world – in Syria, Egypt and elsewhere – no one wants a conflict in the much more peaceful Maldives. Given the polarised nature of this conflict, it is important for order to be established in the Maldives sooner rather than later. Leaving internal institutions in the Maldives to chance upon a solution after a prolonged conflict is not what is required at present and may even be counter-productive.

Clearly, the Maldives needs the international community’s support to ensure that this conflict is not prolonged and is resolved for good with this round of elections. Moreover, it is not in India’s interests to see any prolonged conflict in its backyard, for such conflicts allow an opportunity to other countries to start playing an active role where they have been largely absent till date. It is important for India to establish diplomatic supremacy once again in the Maldives.

Ever since the suspicious transfer of power in the Maldives in February 2012, Indian engagement in the Maldives has largely been reactive. It has been on the ‘back-foot’ since February 2012 with the rising anti-India voices from some quarters of the political spectrum. President Waheed went back on his word to the Indian prime minister in cancelling the GMR agreement, and the much prolonged ‘Nasheed-holed-up-inside-Indian-high-commission’ drama in February 2013 only exacerbated discord. India has reacted well to manage some of these situations, though Indian diplomacy has failed on a few fronts, particularly in failing to gauge the allegiance of the current government of President Waheed.

The current conflict in the Maldives provides a perfect opportunity for India to take charge of the situation. The re-election is an opportunity to set the Maldives in order and to define Indian diplomatic supremacy in the region. It has to play an active role in building domestic as well as international consensus on whatever is required to ensure that the re-election, now that everyone seems to have accepted it, is free and fair and actually results in a smooth and consensual transfer of power on November 11. The number of diplomatic options India has are endless, but just strongly worded statements don’t seem to be enough of a deterrent to the various political actors in the Maldives. On the other extreme, far-fetched options like an international peace-keeping force or any sort of ‘boots-on-ground’ is totally out of bounds as well. While some sort of economic sanctions are a plausible diplomatic action, these haven’t been much of a deterrent in many cases across the world.

A possible tourism-embargo will hit the various political actors involved in this conflict and would force them to tow the democratic line such that the starkly polarised domestic politics could be sorted out once and for all. This is a call that has been made by the MDP as well, and has been welcomed and criticized in equal measure by various people across the socio-political spectrum in the country. Having said that, it is such details of what and how that India has to play without becoming actively involved in the local politics and without taking political sides. India has to build international consensus on what carrots and which sticks need to be used to ensure that any dubious dealings no longer stymie Maldivian democracy.

Maldivian democracy is on life-support and it needs international help, especially from India, to help it come back to life again after the 11th November.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Suspension of democracy an assault on the Maldives’ fragile democracy: The Diplomat

The future of democracy on the archipelago looks bleak after a constitutionally questionable court intervention, writes Sudha Ramachandran for The Diplomat.

Late last week, the Maldives Supreme Court announced that the run-off vote should be postponed indefinitely. It is a move that is both unconstitutional and an assault on the country’s fragile democracy.

The decision has been criticized by Nasheed’s MDP as a “complete defiance of the Constitution,” an act of “betrayal of democracy and the will of the Maldivian people” by a “discredited court.” Indeed, Article 111 of the Maldivian Constitution says a run-off must be held within 21 days of the first round of voting. September 28, the day the Election Commission had scheduled for the run-off, was that deadline.

Many observers believe that the postponement of the run-off is an extension of what happened eighteen months ago. The sharp polarization between pro and anti-democratic forces persists.

“Anti-democratic forces who we thought we had defeated in 2008, asserted themselves in 2012 and have regrouped now, acting through the judiciary to keep Nasheed from returning as president,” a Maldivian businessman, who participated in the pro-democracy protests a decade ago and is based now in India, tells The Diplomat. “By keeping Nasheed out, these forces are preparing the ground for the Maldives return to full-fledged authoritarian rule,” he warns.

Maldivians will be anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court’s verdict. Will it annul the election result and call for fresh elections, enabling Ibrahim to mount a renewed effort for the presidency? Will it dismiss Ibrahim’s appeal and announce a new date for the run-off, facilitating Yameen’s campaign? Or will it keep the election process in suspension, extending Waheed’s presidency? The verdict will depend on who the apex court is backing. Meanwhile the Maldivian military will be planning its moves.

Whatever the outcome, the future of the Maldives’ badly damaged democracy looks bleak.

Full story