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.