JP leader Gasim returns to Maldives

Gasim Ibrahim, the leader of Jumhooree Party (JP) returned to Maldives today after the government removed a freeze on his Villa Group accounts over an alleged unpaid fine of US$90.4million.

Gasim spent nearly three months abroad, during which he announced he will resign from politics after his term as Maamigili MP expires in 2019. He has now pledged to hand over the reigns of the JP to new leaders.

“Gasim did not mention any particular reason for coming back. But I note there isn’t any reason for him not to come back,” JP spokesperson Ali Solih said.

The JP split from the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) coalition in January and allied with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in an anti-government campaign. MDP leader and former president Mohamed Nasheed was subsequently arrested and imprisoned on terrorism charges and Gasim’s Villa Group was slapped with a US$90.4million fine.

The Villa Group maintains the fine is unlawful. However, the JP and the government said they have reached an agreement on paying the fine.

Local media reported that the police had issued an arrest warrant for alleged funding of a historic anti-government protest on May 1. He was also accused of involvement in a plot to assassinate President Abdulla Yameen during the trial of ex defence minister Mohamed Nazim on weapons smuggling charges in March.

Explaining Gasim’s silence on Nasheed and Nazim’s sentencing, JP deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim said the government had “economically – paralyzed” Gasim. Since then, Ameen and JP council member Sobah Rasheed were both arrested and charged with terrorism. The pair have now fled the country.

Gasim was first in Bangkok, and later in Frankfurt.

MDP chairperson Ali Waheed, who was arrested along with Ameen and Sobah, tweeted a photo of Gasim’s arrival at the Malé airport saying: “The picture says it all. This is not fair. President Yameen should remember a time will for others as well”.

He further said the government had forced Gasim to sacrifice his political career

Waheed is in the UK.

While Gasim was abroad, he backed several government proposals, including a constitutional amendment that will disqualify him from running in the 2018 presidential elections.

The amendment sets new age-limits of 30-65 years for the presidency. Gasim will be 66 in 2018.

The JP accepted President Abdulla Yameen’s invitation for talks without conditions. The JP and the government have held two meetings so far. Talks are ongoing between the MDP and the government now.


MDP vows to continue protests until demands are met

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has vowed to continue protests until the opposition’s demands to release “political prisoners” are met after police cracked down on last night’s sit-in protest.

Some 12 protesters, including former ruling party MP Ahmed Mahloof and Adhaalath Party deputy secretary general Ahmed Shareef, were arrested from the protest. The MDP had said the sit-in on Malé main thoroughfare Majeedhee Magu could last three days.

MDP vice president Mohamed Shifaz told Minivan News today that the party organised the protest because President Abdulla Yameen’s administration was not heeding the opposition’s demands despite two previous mass protests.

“We will continue protesting till our demands are heard by the government. The purpose of our protest was to call to end to government tyranny. So we will protest till our purpose has been achieved,” he said.

Riot police dispersed the crowd of around 2,000 protesters after 12:00am last night. The police had declared the protest was not peaceful after organisers refused to stop using loudspeakers after 11:00pm.

Specialist Operations (SO) police officers chased protesters into side streets and cleared Majeedhee Magu, but protesters regrouped and continued protesting after 3:00am.

The protest ended after MP Mahloof and several others were arrested.

Meanwhile, home minister Umar Naseer said last night that the low turnout was a “clear indication that people prefer peace and stability.”

“Official estimates of less than 2000 [people] took part in the latest [demonstration]. A clear message to the opposition that their lies have failed them,” tweeted housing Dr Mohamed Muiz.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Riyaz Rasheed announced that a fireworks display will take place tonight to celebrate the “MDP’s weakening” and the opening of two futsal pitches in Thaa atoll.

The government also held a fireworks display to celebrate the “failure” of the May Day mass anti-government demonstration.

PPM MP Nihan meanwhile suggested that opposition supporters from other islands had accepted Riyaz’s advice and decided not to travel to the capital for the June 12 protest. Riyaz’s tweets about not allowing “islanders” to come and protest in Malé stirred controversy last month.

“Assault on democracy”

The June 12 demonstration was the third mass protest calling for the release of imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed and former defence minister Mohamed Nazim, whose arrests in February triggered the ongoing political crisis.

The turnout at last night’s protest was significantly lower than the mass protests on February 27 and May 1. Some 20,000 people took to the streets on May Day and nearly 200 protesters were arrested in a police crackdown after protesters attempted to enter Malé’s restricted Republic Square.

The opposition is also demanding the withdrawal of terrorism charges against Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Jumhooree Party (JP) deputy Ameen Ibrahim, and JP council member Sobah Rasheed. All three were arrested after the May Day protest and accused of inciting violence.

Meanwhile, despite JP leader Gasim Ibrahim’s tweets last night distancing the party from the sit-in protest, Shifaz said that the JP’s level of support and cooperation for the opposition ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ campaign remains unchanged.

JP MP Ali Hussain and some senior members participated in last night’s protest.

Gasim has been out of the country since late April while Ameen and Sobah left shortly after their release from remand detention. In a video message this week, Sobah said he is seeking political asylum.

President Yameen had called for separate talks with the three allied opposition parties after the May Day protest, but ruled out negotiations over the release of Nasheed and Nazim.

Talks with the JP began last week while the government rejected Nasheed and Imran, respectively, as the MDP and AP’s representatives.

The MDP meanwhile said in statement today that the jailing and prosecution of opposition leaders represented a “continuing and sustained assault on the Maldives’ democracy.”

“Many opposition politicians, including most of the JP leadership, have fled abroad to avoid arrest and the likelihood of a biased and politically-motived trial,” the statement added.

Ameen posted a video message on YouTube last night declaring solidarity with the opposition protesters.

“Rule of law has been abandoned in Maldives and we are now governed by rule by law,” MDP parliamentary group leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said in the statement.


“Slide to dictatorship now complete”: opposition reacts to new terror charges

New terrorism charges against three opposition leaders have prompted concern over prolonged instability in the Maldives and raised fears that the government is out to silence the opposition.

The Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla, Jumhooree Party’s deputy leader Ameen Ibrahim and its council member Sobah Rasheed’s terrorism trials on charges of inciting fear are set to begin tonight.

If convicted, they face between ten and 15 years in jail. Imran was arrested from his home last night. Ameen and Sobah are out of the country at present.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) condemned the charges in a statement today: “The government’s use of terrorism charges against opposition leaders at a time when the opposition have expressed their ongoing willingness to engage in talks to end the political crisis is worrying.”

But the president’s office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali today blamed lack of progress in talks on the opposition parties.

“The problem here is the main opposition party MDP and Adhaalath Party are not sincere. The government has set the rules. No prisoner or a person will legal or administrative barrier can participate in the talks,” he said.

The Adhaalath Party and the JP had proposed Imran and Ameen as representatives with the government in separate talks. The new charges mean the government will not accept the pair as representatives.

The ongoing crisis was triggered by the imprisonment of former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim. The government has ruled out discussions over the pair’s release.

The MDP’s spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor said: “The Maldives’ slide to dictatorship is now complete. There isn’t an opposition leader in the country who isn’t either in jail or facing charges.”

The Adhaalath Party said the charges against the oppositions leaders are “cowardly” and “proof the government is unfaithful to the people and lack the ability to fulfil pledges.”

The JP was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

Imran and Ameen were arrested after a 20,000-strong protest on May 1 and accused of encouraging violence in their speeches, which police contends led to protesters assaulting police officers, damaging property, and disrupting public order and safety.

The May Day protest was the largest anti-government demonstration in Maldivian history.

Sobah was arrested from an opposition street protest on May 3.

The MDP chairperson Ali Waheed was also arrested on May 1, but the PG office has reportedly not made a decision on prosecuting the former MP.

The charges against the opposition leaders have sparked outrage on social media.

The former Attorney General Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed said she is “in shock.”

Others questioned the government’s sincerity in resolving the political crisis.

Many members of the public Minivan News spoke to previously have also said they are skeptical of a positive outcome from the talks with the government having ruled out Nasheed and Nazim’s release.

MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said: “The Maldivian state has all the characteristics of a criminal organisation.”

JP MP Ali Hussein said the government will not enact the new penal code until it has jailed all the opposition leaders.

The new penal code, which would repeal the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act, was set to come into force in April. But ruling MPs delayed its enactment until July.

Meanwhile, the government has drafted a new Terrorism Act. MP Hussein in a separate tweet said: “Under the terrorism law even a tweet of mine could be an act of terrorism.”

The only MP of the Adhaalath Party, Anara Naeem, said she does not want “a culture where criticism of the government leads to jail sentences.”

Referring to Imran’s arrest, former MP Visam Ali asked: “How long will the police carry out atrocities like this?”

Before his arrest, Sheikh Imran tweeted: “It is not a crime not to follow unlawful orders even if the orders come from the police.”

Other opposition politicians remained defiant. Former ruling party MP Ahmed Mahloof said: “Do what you can do now. God willing, tyrants will be answerable before the law and will face justice soon enough.”

The opposition has called for a third mass protest on June 12. The mayor of southern Addu City on Sunday said he will be in Malé for the protest.


We will change the government according CoNI report, says Nasheed

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has said the opposition will change the government in the manner which was authenticated by Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) report.

Speaking at a street rally in Malé held last night (January 3) by Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and its new ally the Jumhooree Party (JP), Nasheed said all political parties had agreed that the findings of the report would be accepted even before it had begun.

“This very report stated that the transfer of power on February 7 was made in accordance with the laws – President Yameen, we are also going to change your government in that very path deemed legal,” he said.

After the Commonwealth-backed inquiry ended the MDP’s hopes of overturning the new administration, Nasheed described the final report as a setting a legal precedent for the overthrow of an elected government through police or mob action.

The Maldives was left “in a very awkward, and in many ways, very comical” situation, said the former president at the time of the report’s release in August 2012, “where toppling the government by brute force is taken to be a reasonable course of action. All you have to do find is a narrative for that course of action.”

The report into the circumstances surrounding Nasheed’s controversial resignation found that the change of government was “legal and constitutional”, and the events of February 6-7 “were, in large measure, reactions to the actions of President Nasheed”.

“The resignation of President Nasheed was voluntary and of his own free will. It was not caused by any illegal coercion or intimidation,” the report claimed.

“[I]t is evident that President Nasheed lost the support of the coalition supporting the MDP which had brought him to power and it is an irrefutable fact that MDP never enjoyed a clear majority in the Parliament,” read the document, pointing to factors that led to his departure from office.

Constitutional amendments

Nasheed claimed last night that as stated in the CoNI report, President Abdulla Yameen’s government had also lost legitimacy after JP leader Gasim Ibrahim – who backed Yameen in the 2013 presidential run-off elections – pulled out of the coalition.

“There is no support for President Yameen’s presidency. The support he received even with President Maumoon is 25 percent,” Nasheed stated.

He argued that the spirit of the Maldivian Constitution is aligned with the presidential system of governance, which demands that one individual gains over 50 percent of the voting population’s support.

This support failed to materialise in either the 2013 presidential elections, or in his own 2008 victory, noted Nasheed.

“The result is that the new government in its infancy loses legitimacy after coalition partners pull out”.

Nasheed also stated that the Maldivian people do not wish to create a dictatorial ruler with a super majority, but rather wish “to find a way in which the Maldives is ruled under the principle of dialogue and discussion”.

He subsequently claimed that constitutional changes needed to be brought in order to facilitate a system of democracy in which the government can function without a super majority, through discussions and dialogue between political figures and parties.

The MDP and the JP held a third round of discussions at Maafannu Kunooz on Sunday (January 1) night, agreeing to officially sign a document concerning their joint efforts to defend the Constitution.

The document, scheduled to be signed at a special ceremony on Thursday (January 5), will be followed by a joint rally that evening at the Carnival area in Malé.

Although the Adhaalath Party has decided against joining the alliance, the Maldives Trade Union has joined the opposition, claiming that the government’s persistent violations of the constitution have “eroded crucial checks and balances and accountability mechanisms”.

Related to this story

No coup, no duress, no mutiny: CNI report

MDP and JP reach agreement on defence of Constitution

Nasheed urges President Yameen to convene all-party talks


Maldives Trade Union joins opposition’s defence of Constitution

The Maldives Trade Union (MTU) has joined with opposition parties in defence of the Constitution, suggesting that persistent violations have “eroded crucial checks and balances and accountability mechanisms”.

“The government’s actions have undermined the Constitution, allegations of corruption are left un-investigated, the auditor general has been removed along with two Supreme Court judges,” said MTU President Fuad Zahir.

“All of this is ruining the business confidence and is eroding the guarantees for justice and order.”

The MTU was inaugurated in May 2014, with 180 members aiming to provide an independent voice for the protection of small and medium-sized businesses.

Zahir formed the group after clashing with authorities over the new tax regime – introduced by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government. He was investigated the the Prosecutor General’s Office last year for tax evasion.

The opposition MDP and the Jumhooree Party (JP) held a third round of discussions at Maafannu Kunooz last night, agreeing to officially sign a document concerning their joint efforts to defend the Constitution.

Speaking to press after the discussions, JP deputy leader Ibrahim Ameen said an official agreement would be signed by the two parties on Thursday (January 5) at a special ceremony, while a joint public rally will be held that night.

He also thanked MTU for its council’s decision to join the parties in the “cause of defending the constitution”, inviting all individuals, NGOs, and political parties “willing to sincerely work for the cause”.

Ameen also thanked the Adhaalath Party for “expressing willingness” to join the MDP and JP and expressed hope that the party would join the “all-party talks”.

“Adhaalath Party has always played a crucial role in all national issues that this country has faced”, Ameen said.

Adhaalath’s council this week announced it had decided against joining discussions, claiming “no such talks were found to be of use for the time being”.

The party, which has just one MP in the 85-seat Majlis has been considered an unofficial partner in the ruling Progressive Coalition, which now directly controls 49 seats in the house after MDP MP Yamin Rasheed defected to Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

Last night MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed stated that the activities that would be carried out under the new agreement which would be revealed to the public next week, while the agreement itself would be accessible to the public.

“This is the point at which Maldivian people should cross the border of fear and come out,” said the MDP chairperson, claiming that this government’s intention was to narrow civil liberties like the freedom of speech and expression.

He also condemned the arrest of the editor of the MDP’s ‘Moonlight’ newsletter editor, Lucas Jalyl, who was arrested by police near Kunooz yesterday.

Jalyl was released earlier today after having allegedly obstructed police officers from carrying out their duties.

Meanwhile, the Maldives Development Alliance MP Mohamed Ismail has released a statement calling on the JP and its leader MP Gasim Ibrahim to “save yourselves from President [Mohamed] Nasheed’s deceitful web of lies”.

The 2008 alliance between Nasheed’s MDP and the JP lasted less than one month, while the JP’s involvement in the ruling Progressive Coalition lasted around six months.

Related to this story

Adhaalath Party decides against participation in opposition talks

MDP and JP reach agreement on defence of Constitution

Nasheed urges President Yameen to convene all-party talks

MDP holds street rally in front of Gasim’s residence


MDP holds street rally in front of Gasim’s residence

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has held a street rally in front of Gasim Ibrahim’s residence in order to show solidarity with the Jumhooree Party (JP) leader in defending the Constitution.

The rally themed ‘In Defense of the Constitution’ held last night was attended by senior members of the MDP, with Maamigili MP Gasim also coming out of Maafannu Villa for a brief period of time to meet with the crowd.

Speaking at the rally, MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed said the parties were having informal talks to create a platform to defend the Constitution, which will emerge as one of the friendliest and most cooperative the nation has seen.

“We are protesting near Maafannu Villa or near any other political figure to protect the Maldivian Constitution. We should not be concerned about following someone or leading someone, rather Maldivians must rally behind the national flag and defend the constitution”, said Waheed.

MDP Vice president Mohamed Shifaz who also addressed the rally last night announced that the party will hold a protest march on Friday (January 23), starting at the Raalhugandu area in Malé.

The party has also announced that it will be holding rallies on street corners to raise awareness regarding the “destruction of the Maldivian Constitution”.

Yesterday’s rally marks a continued rapprochement between the opposition and the JP – which was officially aligned with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives until May last year, after having given crucial backing to Abdulla Yameen in the 2013 presidential race.

Yameen eventually beat MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed in a much-delayed poll after the Supreme Court’s controversial annulment of the first round following complaints lodged by third-placed candidate Gasim.

A warming of relations

MDP Spokesman Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News today that it is time to leave the rocky past behind and for “all political parties including Mr Gasim’s Jumhooree Party to stand together with the MDP to defend the Constitution”.

“Defending the Constitution is not only the MDP’s job but everyone else’s too. The MDP is fighting for a cause in which, if anybody or politician is subjected to injustice or unfairness, the MDP would defend them and the Constitution”, said Fahmy.

Meanwhile, JP Spokesperson Ahmed Sameer stated that if all parties reflect on the experiences of the past and work with “sincerity and good will”, the JP is confident that the party will be able to work with the MDP.

“I do not see why MDP and JP cannot travel on the same boat. If are able to do fruitful work for this cause, perhaps it will pave way for further cooperation in the future”, Sameer said.

The previous alliance between the MDP and the JP – as part of Nasheed’s coalition government in 2008 – lasted less than one month. Gasim subsequently joined the anti-government movement in 2011 before the controversial resignation of Nasheed in early 2012.

Movement between the two parties has been frequent, however, with a number of prominent politicians switching between the two – most notably former MDP President Dr Ibrahim Didi and Vice President Alhan Fahmy both leaving for the JP in 2012 before returning in 2013.

After returning to the MDP following the JP’s decision to back Yameen for the presidency in late 2013, Dr Didi said that the two parties were similar in their reformist ideology.

“To tell the truth, 80 percent of Honourable Gasim’s heart is still with the MDP. This is a very clear reality. Even if he had to make a decision under duress, he is a person who worked in the front ranks since 1984 to bring reform to the Maldives,” he said.

Speaking at a rally in the capital Malé last weekend, former President Nasheed said that, despite their political differences, he would not allow President Yameen to destroy the JP leader Gasim.

“Gasim’s property cannot be looted. Gasim’s character and body cannot be harmed,” he told supporters. “We shall rally in his defense”.

Related to this story

“I am not trembling” says Gasim after reports of imminent police raid on his home

Nasheed pledges to defend Gasim from government attacks

We must once again rise up to defend the Constitition, says Nasheed


We must once again rise up to defend the Constitition, says Nasheed

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed has stated that the actions of the government are undermining the constitution.

Nasheed listed numerous decisions such as the removal of Supreme Court judges, “violations of the Public Finance Act”, “narrowing of fundamental freedoms and rights”, rising religious fundamentalism and extremism, and “isolation from the international world community”.

The MDP party president gave the brief statement before his departure to meet Prime Minister Ranil Wikramasinghe and officials from the new Sri Lankan administration after the surprise victory of Maithiripala Sirisena in last week’s presidential elections.

Nasheed noted that the United National Party (UNP) is a sister party to the MDP through the International Democratic Union and that it is a privilege that a like-minded political party is ruling in “our closest neighbor”, with countless cultural, family, and economic ties.

He also expressed confidence in positive assistance and aid from Sri Lanka to the Maldives in general terms, and particularly in consolidating democracy.

Nasheed said the 2008 Constitution is the symbol of the Maldivian people’s desire for a better Maldives, and that it was the result of much suffering and hard work by the Maldivian people.

He also called on all political parties, international partners, NGOs, and all Maldivian citizens to show solidarity in rising up to defend the Constitution.

“My wish is especially for Jumhooree Party to join MDP and for Adhaalath Party to also be involved in this work”, Nasheed said.

Responding to questions from journalists on whether any official talks have been held between Jumhooree Party lead by MP Gasim Ibrahim and the MDP, Nasheed revealed that brief talks had been held between the two parties, though no further details were revealed.

The MDP currently holds 22 seats in the 85 member Majlis, while the JP has 13 MPs. The Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and its partner – the Maldivian Development Alliance – currently hold 48 seats.

After initially announcing that the party would remain neutral following Gasim’s defeat in the twice-held first round of the 2013 presidential elections, the JP’s council decided to endorse Abdulla Yameen three days before the second round, winning the Progressive Party of Maldives candidate the presidency.

However, the JP’s coalition agreement with the PPM was soon severed by the latter after Gasim stood for the post of parliament speaker in May last year. A purge of JP ministers was followed by the defection of two of the party’s cabinet member to the former ally.

After the MDP passed a resolution calling for Gasim to assume the presidency as an interim leader last month, the Prosecutor General Muhuthaz Muhsin ordered the Elections Commission to take all legal action possible against it, labelling the party “irresponsible”.

Following the Supreme Court judges removal and the MDP’s resolution, local NGO Transparency Maldives released a statement expressing “grave concern” at the trend of undemocratic practices in the country.

Related to this story

Transparency Maldives notes “grave concern” over undemocratic trends

ICJ says Majlis has “decapitated the country’s judiciary”

PG orders Elections Commission to reprimand MDP for resolution on transfer of power


Nasheed backs Gasim for Speaker

Opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed has declared support for Jumhooree Party (JP) Leader Gasim Ibrahim as Speaker of the newly elected People’s Majlis.

Speaking to the media following a meeting with Gasim on Monday night, Nasheed said his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group will make a final decision on behalf of the party.

“Our party will decide on this matter on discussion among its members, within the National Executive Council. Tonight, I met Gasim and we held discussions in a very friendly atmosphere. So I hope the outcome will be beneficial to both parties,” Nasheed said.

Gasim placed third in the 2013 presidential elections and successfully sought a revote. After Gasim placed third for a second time, Nasheed sought his backing for the second round. However, the JP decided to back Progressive Party of the Maldives’ (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

On its presidential win, the PPM and JP formed a coalition – the Progressive Coalition – along with two smaller parties. The coalition fielded joint candidates in the parliamentary elections in March. The PPM won 33 seats, the JP 15 and the MDP 26.

Tension has risen within the coalition on the question of which party should control the Speaker’s position.

Nasheed told the media that he agreed to support Gasim without any conditions and that there were benefits for the MDP and the JP from supporting Gasim as Speaker.

Gasim said all parties must come together and discuss over important issues in a democracy.

He told the press he will hold discussions with President Yameen to obtain backing from the PPM for his Speaker bid.

Meanwhile, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who is also PPM’s honorary leader spoke to newspaper ‘Haveeru’ at the airport after arriving from Srilanka and said that the normal procedure followed when appointing a Speaker of the parliament in most countries was selecting someone from the party that has the most number of MPs.

Gayoom said that PPM had not decided on the issue and will hold more discussions within the party in the upcoming days.

He also said that Gasim had told him about his interest in becoming the Speaker of parliament and said that he had not agreed to it.

In March 2014, President Abdulla Yameen said that PPM will forward its own candidate for the position of speaker of the People’s Majlis.

Parliament should be an institution that “sincerely and responsibly” fulfils the duty bestowed by the public, Yameen told his supporters in speaking at a rally at the time to celebrate the Progressive Coalition’s garnering of a 53 seat majority in Majlis elections.

“For this reason, our party wants the speaker’s post in the next People’s Majlis,” he said during the rally.

Previously, local media reported PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof as saying that both he and fellow re-elected PPM MP Ahmed Nihan had pledged to support Gasim’s candidacy for speaker while negotiating during the 2013 presidential election.

Mahloof suggested that the nomination of a PPM candidate would be likely to cause a rift within the Progressive Coalition, and would be a decision he would find difficult to support

The election of the new speaker – a position that was held by the MDP’s Abdulla Shahid in the previous parliament session – is scheduled to take place through a secret ballot of MPs at the first sitting of the new session.

Majlis regulations note that the speaker “shall be the highest authority of the People’s Majlis responsible for the conduction of all matters pertaining to the People’s Majlis including the administration, the sittings and the committees of the People’s Majlis in accordance with the Constitution and the Regulations.”

The speaker is also charged with preserving “order and decorum” within the Majlis, as well as observance of the institution’s regulations.


High Court to open on Friday to receive election-related cases

The High Court has today said that its registration department will be open on Friday night between 9pm-11:30pm in order to receive cases concerning the recent Majlis elections.

The court noted that according to laws it has to conclude cases concerning elections within 30 days of the final results being issued by the Elections Commission (EC).

All cases concerning the elections have to be submitted within 14 days of the result, which were announced by the EC on March 28 at 11:35pm.

The High Court has so far accepted cases concerning electoral issues in 10 constituencies so far, including Villingili, Mahibadhoo, Mid-Hithadhoo, Naifaru, Shaviyani Funadhoo, Thimarafushi, Kurendhoo, Meedhoo, Felidhoo, and Nolhivaram constitutencies.

The court has today concluded hearings into the lawsuit filed by the Jumhooree Party (JP) candidate for Naifaru constituency Ahmed Mohamed, who alleges that the independent candidate – whom he alleges had campaigned after the time was up – had sent misleading text messages to constituents.

EC lawyer Husnu Suood is reported to have told the court today that the complaints had been filed at the complaints bureau by the JP candidate, but that the case had not been concluded as the commission was still clarifying some information from government authorities.

He said the commission had noticed misleading texts sent to Naifaru voters in the name of JP candidate Ahmed Mohamed, noting that it was a very serious issue.

According to Haveeru, Suood told the court that if the accusations were proven, the candidate had violated the code of ethics for campaigning.

Also speaking at the court today, the JP candidate’s lawyer said that independent contestant Shiyam had campaigned outside of the regulated time period.

Shiyam is also accused on sending misleading text messages to constituents saying that the government coalition supported him, as did both President Abdulla Yameen and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Of the five independent MPs-elect, three – including Shiyam – have now signed for the the president’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

The JP candidate’s lawyer submitted two witnesses as well as the text messages in question to the court, which announced no further hearings would be held in the case unless the court needed to question witnesses or to clarify more information.

PPM candidate in Mid-Hithadhoo, Ibrahim ‘Hiyaaly’ Rasheed, has asked the High Court for police intelligence regarding his bribery allegations, while losing Maldivian Democratic Party candidate for the Shaviyani Funadhoo constituency alleges the late closure of a ballot box, out of hours campaigning, and bribery in his case.

Following the election, the EC revealed that a total of 115 complaints were submitted in writing to the national complaints bureau, including 18 concerning the voter registry and 33 complaints regarding negative campaigning, the behaviour of election officials, and campaigning during polling hours.

In its preliminary statement on the parliament elections, local NGO Transparency Maldives (TM) said elections were well-administered and transparent “but wider issues of money politics threatens to hijack [the] democratic process”.

TM revealed that a survey conducted prior to last year’s presidential election showed that 15 percent of respondents had been offered “money or other incentives” in exchange for their vote.

“Admissions about illegal activities such as this are usually underreported in surveys. TM’s long-term observation indicates that vote buying may be even more widespread in the parliamentary elections than other elections,” the statement read.