EC to take submissions for presidential candidates

The Elections Commission (EC) has announced it will open the opportunity for presidential candidates to formally file their candidacy at the commission to contest in the presidential elections, beginning from next Monday until July 24.

The elections commission previously announced that the presidential elections will be held on September 7 and should a run-off election need to be held, it would be held 20 days after announcing the results of the first election.

So far, five individuals have declared their bid to contest in the elections. Candidates include leader of the Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP) and incumbent President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Presidential Candidate and former President Mohamed Nasheed, government-aligned parties Jumhoree Party (JP) leader and business tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Presidential Candidate Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Besides the four party candidates, former PPM Council Member and one of the founding members of the party, Dr Ahmed Saud, has announced he will contest the elections as an independent.

In a press conference held on Sunday, President of the Elections Commission Fuwad Thowfeek said the commission would determine a candidate’s eligibility to contest in the election within a period of 48 hours of its submission.

“The candidate will be informed whether he is eligible to contest in the election within a period of 48 hours. If the candidate is not satisfied with the decision of the commission, he will have an additional five days to file a case at the Supreme Court even after the deadline,” Thowfeek said.

Vice Chair of the Commission Ahmed Fayaz meanwhile said that the commission would strictly adhere to existing laws and regulations in conducting the elections.

He also highlighted that cases currently ongoing in the courts would not be a challenge to the commission or obstruct potential candidacy.

Currently, court cases involving former President Nasheed and President Waheed’s running mate Ahmed Thasmeen Ali are pending in the court system.

Nasheed currently has a criminal case pending at the Hulhumale Magistrate Court over the detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

However, the case is currently suspended by a High Court injunction, after Nasheed raised procedural points in an appeal at the High Court. A date for commencement of the hearings of the appeal is yet to be announced after the last scheduled hearing was suspended.

Shortly after the cancelling of the hearing, Chief Judge of High Court Ahmed Shareef – who was among the three-member judges panel presiding over the case – was “indefinitely suspended” by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) as a “precautionary” action over a case lodged at the commission a year ago.

Meanwhile, Ahmed Thasmeen who leads the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – one of the three parties remaining in President Waheed’s ‘Forward with the nation’ coalition – has a case against him at the Supreme Court, where former MDP MP Mohamed Musthafa is contesting the legitimacy of his parliamentary seat over non-payment of a decreed debt.

However, both Nasheed and Thasmeen’s case are unlikely to be concluded prior to the election, meaning both the candidates are for the time being eligible to contest.

According to the constitution, a presidential candidate and his running mate must be of minimum of 35 years of age, they must not have undischarged decreed debts, and should not have been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term of more than 12 months, unless a period of three years has elapsed since release, or the offender pardoned. A candidate must not have been convicted of an offence for which a hadd is prescribed in Islam or of fraud, deception or criminal breach of trust.

According to statistics provided by the Elections Commission, 240,302 people will be eligible to cast their vote in the 2013 presidential elections, 31,008 more than the number of eligible voters in the 2008 presidential elections (209,294).

The commission had already published the eligible voters’ registry which received 2,279 complaints from the public regarding errors in the list. However, the commission has expressed confidence in resolving the issues highlighted in the registry.


Civil Court orders EC to release funds for People’s Party, Social Democratic Party

The Civil Court has ordered the Elections Commission (EC) release funds for both the People’s Party (PP) and the Social Democratic Party following an earlier decision by the EC to withhold the money citing political inactivity.

The EC had contested that the budget was withheld because the two parties were receiving public funds but had not been engaged in political activity “to an adequate level”.

Civil Court judge Maryam Nihayath ruled that it was not within the jurisdiction of the EC to determine whether a political party was working to achieve the goals mentioned in its charter.

The judge ruled that Elections Commission was obliged to distribute the budget allocated for each party according to the Elections Commission Act and that there were no probable grounds to believe that the EC had authority to decide whether or not to deliver the money.

Ruling on the suit filed by PP against the EC, Judge Nihayath ordered the EC deliver the money to the party by Thursday.

The Social Democratic Party also filed a lawsuit against the EC for holding the budget allocated for the party, and the Civil Court ruled in similar fashion, ordering the EC to pay the party by Thursday.

Vice President of the Elections Commission Ahmed Hassan Fayaz told Minivan News that the Commission was studying the legal implications of the decision, before deciding whether to appeal.

“Political parties are allocated a budget [from public funds] and in this case we felt these parties were not doing anything [political], and decided it was time to be proactive and make a decision,” he said.

“In the absence of a law you look to public opinion,” he said. “Public opinion was that these parties were not operating as political parties, but were still receiving money from the Elections Commission.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated that the EC had withheld funds from the People’s Alliance Party (PA),  rather than the People’s Party (PP). Minivan News regrets the error and apologises for any confusion caused.