The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the Maldives Democracy Network (MDN) have issued a joint statement expressing concern over the Supreme Court’s 4:3 decision to annul the first round of the 2013 presidential election.
“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.
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.
The 4:3 verdict hinged on a confidential police report supposedly claiming that 5,600 votes were ineligible due to errors such as address mismatches. The report has not been made public and was not shown to the Election Commission’s defence lawyers.
The court issued the verdict 13 days after it heard the concluding statements, issuing an injunction halting the election and missing the constitutionally-mandated deadline for the run-off.
European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton said the EU had noted the verdict, and expressed continued faith in the EC.
“The international community recognised the outcome of the first round on September 7 as inclusive and credible. Under these circumstances, I urge that elections planned for October  take place in full compliance with national and international standards and that the Maldives democratic institutions are safeguarded and the will of the people respected,” Ashton stated.
“I urge that elections… take place in full compliance with national and international standards and that the Maldives democratic institutions are safeguarded and the will of the people respected. The EU restates its confidence in the ability of the Election Commission to ensure this [and] remains ready to support a democratically-elected government in confronting the major challenges that the country is facing.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also “noted” the Supreme Court’s decision, in a statement reiterating calls for a “peaceful, inclusive and credible process” for the re-scheduled vote.
“The first round of the presidential election was widely recognised as a success by international and domestic election observers,” the UN statement read, adding that Ki-moon “acknowledges the continuing efforts by the Elections Commission of the Maldives.”
“The election had been seen as an important step in the country’s democratic transition,” the UN stated, referring to the “contested circumstances” of 2012’s change of government.
UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco last week briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in the Maldives.
MDN is the first local NGO to comment upon the verdict, expressing alarm at the conduct of the country’s highest court as well as the escalating tensions in the country.
“We call upon the Supreme Court and the judiciary to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution and the democratic will of Maldivian people, at all times,” said Shahindha Ismail, Executive Director of MDN.
“The elections must absolutely take place as soon as possible, given the arbitrary and unconstitutional deadline set by the Supreme Court, which ruled yesterday that the current government would remain in place should the elections not be held by early November,” she added.
Global criticism accompanied the Supreme Court’s initial decision to to delay polls on September 23, including statements of concern from the UN, Commonwealth, and the EU.
Local NGO Transparency Maldives (TM) – also the group behind the single largest observer mission conducted during the first round – expressed doubts over the integrity of the Supreme Court in late August, 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 Home Ministry this month announced that it would be investigating TM for its challenging of the Supreme Court, prompting the NGO’s international affiliate – Transparency International – to express its concern “grave concern” over potential intimidation of the Maldivian chapter.