Three DRP MPs defect to Jumhoree Party

Three members of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) have defected to resort tycoon-turned-politician Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP).

DRP MPs Hussain Mohamed, Hassan Latheef and Ahmed Mohamed announced their defection during a meeting held by JP at its party headquarters last Monday night.

Meanwhile former DRP Leader MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, his wife MP Visam Ali and party’s Deputy Leader MP Rozeyna Adam defected to the opposition MDP last week.

The DRP backed opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s Presidential Candidate and former President Mohamed Nasheed in the last Presidential Elections, shortly after the Supreme Court annulled the first presidential polls held in September, in which Nasheed won 45.45 percent of the popular vote.

The new change of sides, leaves the DRP – who won 29 seats in parliament during last parliamentary elections – downsized to just three MPs, with its interim Leader MP Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed, Parliamentary Group Leader MP Abdulla Mausoom and MP Mohamed Ramiz as remaining members.

However, since the fact that neither the MDP nor the coalition of parties supporting President Yameen Abdul Gayoom have the sufficient number of MPs to form a simple working majority of 39 MPs, means the DRP would still continue to be an influential swing party in deciding parliamentary matters.

This is because, the government coalition – even with the support of all independent MPs – would still be able to command just 35 MPs – four MPs short of a majority– while the opposition MDP commands 36 MPs.

The change in party compositions in parliament could also possibly jeopardize the opposition MDP’s majority in parliamentary select-committees, which they gained following DRP’s decision to back Nasheed in the presidential polls.

MP Abdulla Mausoom who took part in Monday night’s JP meeting told local media that although he had not formally joined the JP, he “now supports the JP”.  However, Mausoom said that he still intends to remain in DRP and follow the DRP’s whip-line.

Mausoom’s announcement of his support to the JP also coincides with his appointment to the position of General Manager of the Sun Island Resort and Spa – a resort owned by JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim.

“Tourism has always been very close at heart. I’ve taken over as the resort’s General Manager yesterday,” Mausoom told the press earlier.


In a press conference held this Tuesday morning, Interim Leader of DRP MP ‘Colonel’ Nasheed admitted that his party is now “in ICU” and appealed to the support of party members to revive the party.

“But, as a doctor who is attending to the DRP’s condition I shall not give up hope on her. I am sure that this party will be revived. DRP will again become a powerful political party in Maldives in a near future,” Nasheed told the press.

“I am not [former Maldives autocratic ruler for thirty years and founder of DRP] Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. I am not [former DRP Leader] Thasmeen.  So my strategy would be different,”

Nasheed also said that the DRP was currently in the process of an internal audit as it has standing debt of approximately MVR 10 million. He however said that the party would be taking the responsibility for debts it had incurred instead of blaming its former leaders.

“I won’t be able to sort this mess out on my own. This party has members across the country. We fell into this stage because we did not have the needed active members. So I am calling out to all party members to become more active,” Nasheed said.

He further added that the DRP will be fielding its candidates in the upcoming local council elections and the parliamentary election. The party’s target is, Nasheed said, to win the mayorship of Male’ City Council and win at least 10 seats in parliament.

Following the change, the DRP now has 3 MPs, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has 36 MPs, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has 20 MPs, the JP has 7 MPs, resort tycoon Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam’s Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) has 2 MPs, the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) has one MP and five independent MPs.

Three out of the 77 seats are now vacant. The vacant seats include seats belonging to two former DRP MPs Ali Azim and Ahmed Nashiz – who were unseated after the Supreme Court held that they had unpaid debts – and the Mulaku Constituency seat which belonged to President Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

The Elections Commission earlier said that by-elections for the seats would not be held as the current parliament’s term will expire before six months, and as per the constitution, a by-election is required to be held if the parliament’s term has more than six months before expiration.


Abdulla Yameen never destined to become president, says rival candidate Gasim

Resort tycoon and Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim has said that fellow candidate Abdulla Yameen – who is contesting in the presidential poll as the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate – will never be able to secure enough popular support to become the next president.

The Supreme Court’s decision to annul the first round of presidential elections came as a result of a petition filed by the JP, in which the party claimed the election had been flawed due to a number of discrepancies and irregularities in the voting process that amounted to a “systematic failure”.

Gasim’s new verbal attacks on Yameen came in a JP campaign rally held in Kanditheemu Island, Shaviyani Atoll,  last night (October 16).

Speaking during the rally, the businessman-turned-politician told his supporters that Yameen had only won the PPM presidential primaries held earlier this year with the help of some 7,000 fraudulent votes he obtained by infiltrating opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members into PPM ahead of the party’s internal election.

During the PPM primaries held earlier in March, Yameen edged out former PPM Interim Vice President Umar Naseer, taking 13,096 votes out of the total 20,546 votes cast in the party poll.

Challenging the elections result, citing electoral fraud, corruption and violence, Naseer subsequently filed a lawsuit at the Civil Court challenging the outcome of the poll. However, the Civil Court rejected the case and saw Naseer expelled from the PPM for “sowing discord amongst the party flanks”.

Yameen – who is the half-brother of Maldives’ former autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – meanwhile dismissed all the allegations, while Naseer subsequently backed Gasim Ibrahim in the presidential poll.

Addressing yesterday’s rally, Gasim stated that the reason Yameen would not be able to garner the popular support of the people was that people had still not forgotten their mistreatment under Gayoom’s reign, in which Yameen had been a central figure.

Gasim also responded to the PPM’s allegations that he was “stuck” under the influence of advisers sympathetic to his political rivals, namely the MDP.  He said that Yameen and the PPM making such remarks was due to the fact that he had refused to declare his support for Yameen in the event of a run-off duel between Yameen and MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed.

He alleged that Yameen had been making such remarks to cover up his poor presidential campaign, during which he had failed to even visit the majority of the islands in the country.

“A mu’min cannot be bitten twice from one hole; hence I shall never support Nasheed”: Gasim

The resort tycoon also brushed off the ongoing public speculation that he would back Nasheed in a similar case of a run-off election.

The speculations began after Nasheed had a private meeting with Gasim Ibrahim in his own residence last month. Nasheed after the meeting told the press that they had met to discuss “discussed matters of national interest and maintaining stability and public order”.

“As I have said before, a Mu’min (Arabic terminology for pious Muslim) cannot be bitten twice from one hole. That is a narration of Prophet Muhammad. May Allah never show us a day where I would work to help [Nasheed] win the presidency,” Gasim told the rally.

Explaining the reason why he had backed Nasheed in 2008 presidential election – which Nasheed went onto win in the run-off election to become the fourth president of Maldives – was because he wanted to establish good governance and democratic principles in the country.

However, the Chairman of Villa Group said that it had been a “terrible” decision that ultimately caused more grief to the people.

The JP candidate also accused Nasheed of promoting Yameen over him in the presidential election because “Nasheed knows he would swiftly win the presidency should Yameen be contesting him in a possible run-off election”.

“If Abdulla Yameen goes to the second position, [Nasheed] knows he would easily win the second round of elections. If Gasim Ibrahim gets to the second or first position, he knows he must bow down saying bye-bye and good-bye to presidency,” Gasim told his supporters.


2014 budget should be decided after election, says former finance minister

Former Finance Minister Ahmed Inaz has questioned the timing of a decision to present cabinet with the projected 2014 state budget less than 10 days before the scheduled re-run of the presidential election.

With the constitution requiring a new president be sworn into office by November 11, 2013, Inaz has told Minivan News that the budget should be decided by a democratically elected government immediately following the election, rather than by the outgoing administration of President Dr Mohamed Waheed.

The claims were made after the Supreme Court last month suspended the run off vote between Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate Mohamed Nasheed and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) rival MP Abdulla Yameen that had been scheduled for September 28.

The country’s apex court later annulled the first round, ruling that 5,600 ineligible votes had been cast.

With a re-scheduled poll just under a week away, the President’s Office has announced that Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad had presented the projected 2014 budget to the cabinet on October 8.

Whilst Jihad was not responding to requests for information, local media – citing unnamed Finance Ministry sources – have reported that the proposed budget is expected to total MVR16.5 billion.

The project spending plan come as the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) warned in its latest Quarterly Economic Bulletin that government finances have “further deteriorated in the first six months of 2013” due to a sizeable shortfall in expected revenue coupled with a marked increase in recurrent expenditure.

The economic bulletin revealed that the total government expenditure of MVR6.7 billion (US$435 million) in the first half of 2013 was 8 percent higher than the same period in 2012.

The growth of government spending was “entirely due to the 21 percent (MVR965.3 million) growth in recurrent expenditure, which was partly offset by the 26 percent (MVR440.6 million) decline in capital expenditure during the period”, the report stated.

While the present government had previously anticipated the need for for a supplementary budget after state offices were found to have exhausted their entire annual recurrent expenditure for 2013 by April, the Finance Ministry has instead relied on short-term treasury bills (T-bills) to carry over its debts.

Former Finance Minister Inaz said the present government’s reliance on the sale of T-bills was only delaying moves to address the problems with state spending, while ensuring the cost of lending for both public and private enterprise goes up.

Inaz argued that it should be for the newly elected administration to outline how state spending would be handled to find an “agreeable solution” backed by parliament.

“What I mean by agreeable solution is that in the current political climate, I do not believe there will be a clear parliament majority, so we must learn to talk [between political parties],” he said.

“If we delay, this will only prolong the deficit and kill the tax system completely.”

Long term co-operation needed

The former minister said that during the administration of former President Nasheed – under which he himself served – there had been “reluctance” to talk with the country’s opposition.

He added that the same opposition had for their part worked to try and stymie financial measures such as proposed tax reforms that he said had nonetheless been partially introduced by the MDP in the form of the Tourism Goods and Services Tax (T-GST) and general GST.

Having spoken with the current presidential candidates, Inaz argued that there was a shared interest in finding a solution to current concerns over the size of the country’s budget deficit, but argued against what he called the short and medium-term revenue raising measures previously suggested by the current government.

“It will take long-term strategies rather than looking for short-term solutions to try and increase revenue. We must push more cash into the economy and take less money from banks,” he said.

“We cannot increase taxes much more at present, so I believe the smartest way forward would be on focusing to increase productivity. For instance, the revenues in 2011 [from taxation] were way above what we had expected at the time.”

While Inaz said he backed greater efficiency within the civil service and private sector as a key means of boosting revenue, he claimed that significant cuts to recurrent expenditure was not realistic at present.

He took the example of the previous MDP government’s attempts to reduce state wage bills, which he said had required redundancy packages that would not be affordable in the current financial climate.

However, Inaz claimed that any potential government should instead consider freezing current civil service numbers and not hiring any more public sector workers unless a vacancy arose, something he claimed had again been started by the MDP in 2012 before the controversial change in government in early February of the same year.

Former Economic Development Minister Mahmood Razee – another significant figure in the former MDP government – said that it was vital that parliament agree to implement a complete and comprehensive reform of the current taxation system.

Razee argued that the previous government had predicted that once its tax reform plans had been fully implemented to include measures such as income tax, there would not be any need to increase taxes like GST and T-GST as the Majlis previously had this year.


Supreme Court majority judges “do not know what they are doing”: Nasheed

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has conducted a counter-assessment of figures highlighted as electoral fraud in the Supreme Court’s verdict annulling the results of  the February 7 poll.

The Supreme Court in its controversial judgement issued last week based its findings on a secret police report compiled by the court itself, with the assistance of police from the Forensic Directorate Department. The court ruled the election had lacked legitimacy, as there were 5,623 irregularities in the voter registry. The secret report was not shown to the Elections Commission’s legal team.

Former President Nasheed – who finished the September 7 poll on top with 45.45 percent of the popular vote – told the press on Saturday that the party’s legal team had only noted 242 instances of possible fraudulent votes in the Supreme Court’s majority ruling, and 473 instances of potentially fraudulent votes in the dissenting view given by both Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain and Judge Abdulla Areef.

Nasheed argued that neither of these figures would have made any impact on the outcome of the presidential poll.

The final results of the poll held on September 7 showed Nasheed securing 95,224 votes. The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) fielding Maldives former Dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s half brother, Abdulla Yameen finishedin second position with 53,099 votes, 25.35 percent of the popular vote. Jumhoree Party (JP) finished at third position with 50,422 votes – 24.07 percent of the vote – while incumbent President Mohamed Waheed Hassan finished at the bottom with just 5.13 percent of the vote or 10,750 votes.

The former President stated that while the margin between the candidates who finished third and second place of the race stood at 2,677 votes, adding either of the figures to the total number of votes obtained by Gasim Ibrahim would not have changed the outcome.

Analysis of the figures

At a press conference today, the MDP emphasised that irregularities on the voter registry such as incorrect address details did not prove or correspond to an instance of a fraudulent vote.

The party tallied the instances of fraud which were explicitly noted in the rulings, and stated this figure was a fraction of the number needed to influence the outcome.

According to the majority ruling, seven underage voters had cast their ballot in the poll while the dissenting view by Chief Justice Faiz and Judge Areef noted 12 underage voters as having cast their ballots.

The majority ruling highlighted 18 supposedly deceased people who cast their vote in the poll, while the dissenting view claimed 14 dead people had cast their ballots.

Regarding the repetition of names in the voter list, the majority ruling highlighted that 225 entries in the list as repeated. However, the dissenting view by the two judges stated 174 entries were repeated in the voter list, while 22 entries were found to have been repeated when compared to the Department of National Registration (DNR)’s database.

The majority ruling noted that seven people without records in the DNR database had voted in the poll, while the dissenting view noted 207 such people had voted in the poll, out of which 96 had voted under National Identification Card (NIC) numbers that did not match with the number in the voter list.

Both the rulings noted that seven people were given the right to cast their vote, even when their names had not been present in the voting list, after their names were added to the list in handwriting.

“No legitimate, internationally acceptable grounds to annul the poll”

Nasheed said while the Supreme Court had no legitimate or internationally acceptable grounds to annul the poll, the party would still work with the Elections Commission’s decision and was preparing for a fresh election to be held on October 19.

“Even if we get a chance as small as that of the eye of a needle to compete in a presidential election, we are going to win it swiftly. Our opponents have admitted it. They simply cannot win over us through a vote of the people,” Nasheed said.

The former president criticised the election guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court, which he described as the effective creation of new legislation made by the court. The mandate given by the constitution to the Supreme Court was to interpret laws, not to make new ones, he said.

“We have an elected parliament that is mandated to draft legislation. It is completely normal for Supreme Court to declare a part of this legislation illegitimate. But these guidelines, regardless of the name, are new legislation that instructs a state institution to follow a specific procedure. That is creating a law. They do not have that authority,” Nasheed stressed.

Nasheed said when the Supreme Court issued an order, this was required to be in pursuant to the law or the constitution, and if this was not the case, no institution was necessitated to follow those orders.

He also criticised the Supreme Court’s October 10 midnight ruling ordering the Elections Commission to compile a new voter registry, only days after releasing a judgement that ordered it to just amend the errors in the re-registration process.

“I think what is really happening here is that these four judges do not know what they are doing. I don’t think they are doing this purposely. As you know, these four have acquired very strange forms of degrees and maybe it is just that they do not have a clue about what they are doing,” Nasheed suggested.

“The current actions of the Supreme Court have now become acts carried out against the state. These four judges have become a threat to our national security. I call upon the security services to act immediately,” Nasheed said.

He expressed confidence that his political opponents would not succeed in their attempts to invalidate his candidacy, repeatedly claiming that this was “impossible”.

“People will not be surprised by attempts to bar me from contesting. I think the issue about candidacy is no longer newsworthy,” Nasheed said, when the question regarding his candidacy was asked.


Observing the Supreme Court in action

The first round of the Maldives presidential elections – the second multi-party presidential elections held in the country since 2008 – came to a bitter end after the Supreme Court annulled the poll deeming it invalid, void from the outset and, as per the exact wordings of Justice Ahmed Abdulla Didi, “undermining the principle of Universal Suffrage”.

This article is based on direct observations of the proceedings of the Supreme Court case filed by the Jumhooree Party (JP) against the Elections Commission (EC), in which the presidential election was annulled.

After succumbing to a disappointing third place finish at the poll despite a heavily financed presidential campaign, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim and his party sought to annul the poll, citing “massive” electoral fraud amounting to a “systematic failure”, that would have otherwise put him at the forefront of the race to become the sixth president of the country.

Among the list of allegations upon which the party founded its case were the presence of deceased and underaged voters, and repeated or erroneous entries. This, they argued, paved way for their opponents, primarily the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to cast ineligible votes that impacted the “true outcome” of the poll.

To add weight to their claims, the party produced lists of entries in the voter registry which it claimed to be invalid – the source of which remains subject to doubt, with the party’s claims to have obtained the information through its private investigations, party call-centres, and hearsay statements from anonymous witnesses.

Following the submission of the evidence and inspection of the original voting list used by Elections Commission (EC) officials, the Supreme Court tasked a ‘Technical Team’ of police officers to compare the voter list against the allegations by the JP.

The Supreme Court, using the findings of the police’s ‘technical team of experts’ – who claimed the existence of some 5,623 instances of electoral fraud – annulled the elections in a four to three decision, contending that instances of electoral fraud highlighted by the police sufficed to prove a loss of legitimacy in the election.

The majority ruling was formed by Supreme Court Justices Adam Mohamed, Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi, Ali Hameed and Abdulla Saeed. Meanwhile, the Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain, Justices Abdulla Areef and Muthasim Adnan had dissenting views in which they argued that there lacked sufficient grounds to annul the poll.

Controversy surrounding Justices

It is first worth highlighting the controversies that surround the four Justices who formed the majority ruling.

  • Justice Ali Hameed – who was formerly a High Court Judge prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court – is currently under both police and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) investigation for the sex scandal in which leaked CCTV footage allegedly taken during a stay in Sri Lanka depicted him fornicating with multiple European and Sri Lankan prostitutes. The videos went viral in both local media and on social networks, subjecting the judge to heavy public criticism. Meanwhile. a corruption case against Justice Hameed was forwarded to the prosecutor general on July 2013 for abuse of state funds.

  • Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi was formerly a member of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) – whose leader Dr Hassan Saeed represented the Jumhoree Party (JP) in the case. Didi contested the 2009 parliamentary elections as a DQP candidate. Moreover, Justice Didi’s eligibility had been contested after it had been argued that he did not satisfy the requirements as prescribed by the law to sit in the Supreme Court, as he lacked the required seven years experience practicing law.

  • Justice Adam Mohamed – who is also the Chair of the judicial watchdog the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) – stands accused by fellow commission member Shuaib Abdul Rahman of dictatorial conduct in the commission including an instance where he, as the chair of the JSC, outright refused to table a no-confidence motion levied against himself. He has also been subjected to criticism for the JSC’s delay in looking into Justice Ali Hameed’s sex-tape scandal and the controversial suspension of the Chief Judge of High Court over one year ago.

  • Justice Abdulla Saeed – who was the interim Chief Justice prior to mid 2010 – stands accused of making politicised statements, contrary to the law. Recently, opposition-aligned Raajje TV – which was destroyed in an arson attack this week – aired an alleged audio clip in which Justice Saeed described the opposition MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed and his supporters as suffering from “yellow fever”, and that “by no means should Nasheed be allowed to become president”.

It worth noting that these four justices have joined hands to form the majority ruling in several controversial Supreme Court cases, most notably the overriding of a parliamentary removal in the sexual harassment case of former Chair of Civil Service Commission (CSC) Mohamed Fahmy Hassan and the legitimizing of the controversially formed Hulhumale Magistrate Court – which is currently hearing the criminal trial of Nasheed.

Eviction of the Elections Commission’s lawyer

Back to the election annulment case. One of the most telling observations during the hearings was the attitude shown by these four justices – most notably Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi and Justice Abdulla Saeed – towards the attorney representing the EC, Hussain Siraj, during the hearing in which concluding statements from the parties were heard.

Siraj was forced to appear as the senior counsel for the EC after the former Attorney General and President of the Maldives Bar Association, Husnu Al Suood, was ejected from the case for publicly challenging the constitutional legitimacy of the Supreme Court’s mid-trial order to suspend efforts by the EC to hold the run-off election.

Subsequently, the attorneys representing the opposition MDP – who had intervened into the case – were ejected on similar grounds, prompting the party to withdraw from the case altogether claiming that “justice had been denied”.

During the hearing in question, Siraj attempted argue that the injunction issued by the Supreme Court would contradict the constitutional provision prescribed under Article 111(a), which explicitly states that a run-off election must be held within 21 days of the first election should no presidential candidate obtain more than fifty percent of the vote.

The Supreme Court Justices Abdulla Saeed and Ahmed Abdulla Didi responded harshly, while Justice Abdulla Saeed questioned the capacity of Siraj to comprehend what the Supreme Court was doing with regard to judicial review.

Meanwhile, Justice Ahmed Abdulla Didi stated that no one could speak on the legality of a decision made by the Supreme Court and that such an action could amount to contempt of court.

It was also observed that the Justices repeatedly disallowed Siraj from contesting the constitutionality of JP’s requests, while no such restrictions were placed on the JP’s legal counsel Dr Hassan Saeed when he made similar claims.

EC not given opportunity to respond to police report

As mentioned before, one of the fundamental documents upon which the Supreme Court’s judgement was based upon was the report produced by the technical team from the Maldives Police Service, who had cross-referenced the JP’s allegations against the voter list used by Elections Commission officials.

The existence of such a report by police was not formally announced until the justices starting using it as a reference point – despite it playing a pivotal role in forming the majority ruling of the Supreme Court.

As a result, the Elections Commission’s legal counsel was never given the opportunity to challenge or examine the findings of the police report, let alone produce a counter argument.

This was even mentioned in the dissenting view of Justice Muthasim Adnan. He stated:

“…Among the evidences produced [by the parties] included evidence that I do not consider as evidence, and a confidential report to which the parties to the case were not given the opportunity to respond to.”

However in precedents set forth by the Supreme Court, and given that it stands as the final authority to decide on all legal matters, there lies no way as to contest the court’s decisions.


Supreme Court annuls first round of presidential elections

Additional reporting by Mohamed Naahii, Neil Merrett and Zaheena Rasheed

Read the verdict (Dhivehi)

The Supreme Court has annulled the first round of the 2013 presidential elections citing electoral irregularities, despite unanimous positive assessment of the polling by more than a thousand local and international election observers.

The 4:3 verdict cited a confidential police report submitted to the court allegedly claiming that 5600 votes were ineligible. The report has not been made public and was not shown to the Election Commission’s defence lawyers.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed emerged the front-runner with 45.45 percent of September 7’s vote, while half-brother of former President Gayoom, Abdulla Yameen, came second with 25.35 percent.

Gasim Ibrahim, resort tycoon and member of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) until his candidacy, came third with 24.07 percent of the vote, and filed a case demanding the result be annulled after declaring “God willing, Gasim will be President on November 11”.

Incumbent President Mohamed Waheed, who ran in coalition with the Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), received just 5.13 percent of the vote. The DRP subsequently allied with the MDP. It is uncertain if Waheed will run independently again, or form a coalition with Yameen.

The Supreme Court indefinitely suspended the second round on September 23, issuing a supplementary midnight ruling on September 26 ordering the police and military to forcibly prevent the Elections Commission from holding the second round.

The EC had said it intended to comply with the constitutionally-mandated deadline for the run-off of September 28, but was forced to capitulate after it was surrounded by special operations police with orders to storm the building, arrest officials and confiscate ballot papers.

The court’s annulment of the result follows two weeks of street protests, strikes, travel warnings and rumblings of concern from top ranks in the military.

The verdict

Gasim’s legal team, led by his running mate Dr Hassan Saeed, sought to annul the poll on the grounds that it was a “systematic failure”. Yameen’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Attorney General Azima Shukoor – Yameen’s former lawyer – sided with Gasim in court against the Elections Commission.

The EC disputed the credibility of the evidence presented against the polls, which besides the secret police report, included hearsay and speculative testimony from 14 anonymised witnesses. It also noted that even if factual the evidence was not sufficient to impact the results of the first round. The EC’s head lawyer, former Attorney General Husnu Suood, was subsequently ejected for contempt of court.

The majority ruling to annul the election was given by Justices Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi, Abdulla Saeed, Adam Mohamed – also Chair of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) – and Ali Hameed, currently under investigation by police and the JSC for his appearance in multiple leaked sex tapes involving unidentified foreign women in a Colombo hotel room. While on the JSC, Gasim had voted against the JSC’s investigating subcommittee’s own recommendation to suspend the judge, and labelled the tapes “fake”.

In the verdict, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain, Justice Abdulla Areef and Justice Muthasim Adnan argued that Gasim’s Jumhoree Party (JP) had failed to show sufficient grounds to annul the poll.

In issuing the majority ruling, Justice Abdulla Didi said the Supreme Court had sought the assistance of Forensic Investigations Directorate of the Maldives Police Service in carrying out a documentary analysis and comparison of the documents submitted by the JP as evidence, against the original voter list used by the EC officials at the polling booths.

Justice Didi noted that the report by the police investigation team – which according to him consisted of technical experts – had produced a report that claimed 5,623 ineligible votes had been cast during the poll.

The ineligible votes, as per Justice Didi, had included: votes cast under the name of dead people, votes cast by underage children, double voting and votes cast under unregistered National Identification Cards.

Didi in the ruling claimed that the figure quoted in the police report exceeded the narrow margin between the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and JP Candidate Gasim Ibrahim, who finished the race in second and third position respectively.

Didi also said that EC’s actions amounted to undermining of the people’s right to vote and conflicted with the concept of Universal Suffrage which had been acknowledged in the constitution.

He also noted although a new president is unable to be sworn in on November 11 – the date on which the current presidential term expires – the country would not go into a state of constitutional limbo as the principle of continuity of legitimate government would override any repercussions faced by failure to adhere to constitutional deadlines.

Therefore, the first round of presidential election held on September 7 lacked any legal grounds to be considered legitimate, Justice Didi declared.

With the declaration, the four Justices who had formed the majority ruling laid down an interim schedule for the holding of fresh elections.

According to the schedule, the fresh presidential elections are to be scheduled by October 20, and a second round – if required – is to be held on November 3.

The Supreme Court also laid down guidelines which the EC was ordered to follow, including giving the police a substantive role in handling the logistics and security of the election and ballot papers.

The court also ordered the EC to collaborate with the National Center for Information Technology (NCIT) and other government institutions to enhance the security of its database and network server.


MDP protesters gathered near the Supreme Court as the verdict was given greeted the announcement of the October 20 deadline with cautious optimism, noting the second chance for a first round victory.

“We will win in a first round with 150,000 votes. We will beat them down with votes. We will beat the Supreme Court judges,” said MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, while the party’s running mate Mustafa Lutfi called for a ‘celebratory march’.

Not all in the crowd were as enthused. There was an air of latent anger, disappointment and determination.

One woman shouted at the police monitoring the protest: “Traitors! You facilitated one coup, now a second coup, you will do it again. But we will beat you down with votes.”

Yameen’s running mate and Gayoom’s former Justice Minister, Dr Mohamed Jameel, welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“This time around there will be a certain guideline which Elections Commission (EC) must follow,” he said. “I think based on the judgement of the Supreme Court, the head of the EC must resign as a moral and legal step.”

88 percent of the country’s 240,000-odd eligible voters cast their ballots in the first round, many of them for the first time.

First-time voter Mohamed Haisham, 19, said today’s Supreme Court ruling had only been a victory for the country’s rich elite, keen to keep resort profits to themselves.

“In my opinion, [JP candidate] Gasim did this. He used his wealth and power to buy the election. However, people are aware of this now, he will not get as many votes this time around.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the fresh election was scheduled on Oct 20 with run-offs on Nov 3. According to the court, elections are to be held BY Oct 20 with run-offs BY Nov 3. A written verdict had yet to be released as of 3:00pm Tuesday.


Supreme Court collects details of Election Commission’s Ballot Progress Reporting System (BPRS)

The Elections Commission (EC) has said that it has submitted the ballot monitoring software, the Ballot Progress Reporting System (BPRS) used by the election officials during the first round of presidential elections to the Supreme Court, with regard to the JP’s election annulment case filed against the commission.

The BPRS System is a web based application that tallied the number of voters who had cast their vote or were in the queue to vote. However, due to difficulties of internet access in some islands, the system was not fully utilized.

During the hearings of the case, JP lawyer and running mate Dr Hassan Saeed told the court that the BPRS system had allowed voters to cast their vote more than once – one of the many arguments it had raised in support of their claim that the entire electoral process was a “systematic failure”.

Chair of Elections Commission Fuwad Thowfeek told local media that the commission had submitted all the documents that had been requested by the apex court.

According to the Elections Chief, the commission had begun to use the BPRS system since the Parliamentary by-elections held last year in the constituencies of Kaashidhoo and Thimarafushi.

He also said that the software was used in all the netbook PCs in polling booths and that it showed the tally of both male and female voters separately.

Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court concluded taking statements from the parties in the case. Officials from the Supreme Court have told local media that the court had been working round the clock to reach a verdict as soon as it can.


Supreme Court hears closing statements in annulment case

The Supreme Court has concluded hearings in the case filed by resort tycoon and presidential hopeful Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party (JP) against the Elections Commission (EC), requesting the apex court annul the first round of the presidential election.

Submitting his closing statement the JP lawyer and running mate of Gasim, Dr Hassan Saeed, told the Supreme Court that the party was seeking three remedies from the court.

The first remedy the party sought, explained Saeed, was for the Supreme Court to declare that the voters list used during the election had undermined the constitutional right of the citizens to cast their ballot.

The second request, he continued, was for the Supreme Court to declare that the EC had formulated the list in contradiction of the general election laws, as well as the prerequisites set forth in its own pre-election ruling.

This ruling in question ordered all relevant authorities ensure facilitation of a free and fair presidential election, with the EC remaining duty bound to address any possible errors regarding details on the voter registry.

The third and final request made was for the apex court to declare that the presidential election held on September 7 is void and invalid, Saeed told the seven-member Supreme Court bench.

Attorney General’s contribution

In summing up his case, Saeed said that the party’s allegations – including double voting, voting in the names of deceased people, and underage voting – had been given additional weight after being acknowledged by the Attorney General during hearings.

Saeed also repeated his criticism of the security features on the ballot paper, as well as the under-performing of the Ballot Progress Reporting System (BPRS) – a web based application used by the EC officials at polling stations.

Saeed stressed that the BPRS system’s failure had left polling stations prone to double voting.

Referring to the statements given by the JP’s witnesses, Saeed noted that the party had produced sufficient documentary evidence to substantiate its claims.

He explained that the JP – being a private party – did not have the same resources as a state institution, and therefore the evidence provided was intended to prove that the entire election process was a systematic failure rather than to prove individual cases of misconduct.

In the closing statement given by the Attorney General’s Office, the Solicitor General Ahmed Usham told the court that the state did not wish to take sides in the matter and had only intervened in the case to present the complaints that President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan had received through government agencies.

Meanwhile Ahmed Zaneen Adam, representing the PPM – which had also intervened into the case, told the court that it was imperative it uphold the rights of the people to elect their ruler.

He said that issues concerning the elections had caused doubts among the public regarding the sincerity of the EC.

Zaneen followed Saeed in reiterating the JP’s request that court annul the first round of elections and call for a fresh presidential election with the discrepancies amended.

Election Commission’s closing remarks

Responding to the remarks made by Saeed, EC lawyer Hussain Siraj stressed to the court that the JP had not been able to prove any of their allegations against the commission.

Siraj also requested the court distinguish between procedural irregularity and substantive irregularity in deciding the case. He argued that Saeed’s allegations, even if proven to have happened, would indicate only procedural irregularity rather than a substantive irregularity.

This would be insufficient grounds to annul the election, argued Siraj.

The EC lawyer also responded to the claims made in the JP’s closing statements, but was frequently interrupted by the judges – most notably the former Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, whose name had appeared on the injunction ordering the run-off’s postponement. Abdulla Saeed requested Siraj to shorten his speech.

The EC lawyer, in his plea to the court, requested that it rule there were no reasonable grounds to declare the voters list invalid and thereby there were no reasonable grounds to void the September 7 elections.

In concluding the hearing, the Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz announced that unless the court required clarifying matters from the parties, it will issue a verdict at the next hearing.

However, shortly after the hearing concluded, an additional case requesting the court delay the run-off was filed by Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – running mate of PPM presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen.

A member of EC’s legal team told Minivan News that a hearing of Jameel’s case against the EC had been scheduled for Thursday at 2:00pm.


Supreme Court continues hearing witnesses against Elections Commission

The Supreme Court continued obtaining statements from witnesses produced by the Jumhooree Party (JP) in its case against the Elections Commission (EC), seeking the annulment of the first round election over allegations of voting discrepancies and irregularities.

Shortly before the commencement of the hearings on Tuesday, the Supreme Court informed both the EC and the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – who had also intervened in the case – that its lawyers had been ejected from the case, for acting in contempt of court.

Following the announcement, the court suspended the hearings for two hours to allow the parties to seek a replacement for the suspended lawyers. However, shortly before the two hour period elapsed, the MDP withdrew from the case citing severe discrepancies in the court.

Lawyer Hussain Siraj appeared on behalf of the Elections Commission, replacing former Attorney General Husnu Suood who promptly signed up as an MDP member.

During today’s court session, the Chief Justice announced that the hearing would continue to hear the witnesses produced by the JP in support of its allegations against the Elections Commission.

Three witnesses told the court that when they had gone to vote, EC officials present at the polling station had told them that votes had already been cast under their name but once they had complained, the officials allowed them to vote after manually entering their names into a physical voter list present at the station.

The other two witnesses claimed that they had knowledge of underage people voting in the poll. However, among the two witnesses who made the claim, one witness said that he had only heard about it, after rumours began circulating that such a thing happened.

During cross examination the EC’s lawyer Siraj asked if he had anything to substantiate his claims. The witness said he had neither personally checked whether the alleged underage voter had actually voted, or whether he was actually under the age of voting.

The second witness who testified said he had seen an underage person who had voted and told the court that he had personally gone to the person in question and said that the person had an indelible ink mark on his finger.

According to the witness, the underage voter was 17 years of age as per his National Identity Card (NIC) – one year less than the eligible age of voting which is 18 years.

After questioning the witnesses, the Supreme Court requested the Attorney General’s office submit their list of alleged underage voters.

The lawyer representing the Attorney General’s office told the court that it intended to submit the intelligence report from the police, as stated during the last hearing. However, the lawyer said that the Attorney General’s Office would not submit the report if the Supreme Court was going to share the report with other parties in the case.

Meanwhile, the JP lawyers submitted two more additional documents as evidence – one, an official document from the Maldives Police Service detailing the security services provided to the Elections Commission, and the second document a request made by Elections Complaints Bureau which had requested recount of a ballot box during the polling day. JP lawyers alleged that the EC had disregarded the request and had gone on to announce the results of the box.

In concluding today’s hearing, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz announced that a hearing would be held tomorrow (Wednesday).