The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) decided during a contingency meeting of the party’s national council on Friday (September 20) to pursue a no-confidence motion against Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor and change the composition of the Supreme Court bench through legislation.
The meeting took place after three consecutive days of lengthy Supreme Court proceedings of a case filed by the Jumhooree Party (JP) against the Elections Commission (EC) seeking annulment of the first round of the September 7 presidential election. The Supreme Court hearings adjourned for the weekend on Thursday.
At its meeting yesterday, the MDP national council adopted a resolution to undertake all necessary efforts to ensure that the presidential election would be free, fair and transparent and “decided only by the vote of the people and not by the courts”.
The resolution submitted by MDP MP Ahmed Hamza was passed with unanimous consent of all 51 members of the national council in attendance.
‘Certainty of the margin’
During the debate on the resolution, the MDP presidential candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed said it was important for all political parties – including the JP – to have no doubts over the integrity of the electoral process.
Nasheed said that the JP’s main issue was the narrow margin of 1.28 percent – a difference of just 2,677 votes – between its candidate Gasim Ibrahim and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
For the JP to accept the narrow margin, Nasheed said that the registry of voters had to be checked to verify the JP’s claim that ineligible voters were on the list.
Nasheed noted that the EC had published the registry in the government gazette for public scrutiny, after which the MDP had identified some 800 people in the list that were either deceased, underage or repeated more than once.
The question that has to be answered, said Nasheed, is whether more than 2,000 people who were not eligible to vote had cast their ballots.
The former president expressed confidence that electoral fraud had not occurred in the September 7 election even if there were problems with the voters registry.
Altering Supreme Court composition
“As experts are noting that some judges on the Supreme Court bench lack certain kinds of legal knowledge and experience, it is our view changes has to be made to the composition of the Supreme Court’s bench. That is, by amending the Judges Act,” Nasheed said.
Shortly before the MDP government was toppled on February 7, 2012, the party proposed a bill to amend the Judicature Act that would reduce the number of judges on both the benches of the Supreme Court and High Court.
MDP Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News at the time that the amendments had been forwarded due to inefficiency of both the High Court and the Supreme Court in concluding cases.
In March 2013, the MDP national council, following a controversial Supreme Court ruling that overturned parliament’s decision to vote out Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan on sexual harassment charges, passed a motion calling on its parliamentary group to seek to abolish the existing Supreme Court bench and replace it with a new panel of judges, including foreign judges.
Meanwhile, during Friday’s national council meeting, Nasheed also stressed the importance of speeding up the process of appointing a parliament representative to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). The seat reserved in the JSC for a member of parliament was declared vacant after JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim formally became a candidate of the presidential election.
No confidence motion against Attorney General
During the debate, MDP MP Ahmed Sameer announced that the MDP parliamentary group has prepared a no-confidence motion against Attorney General Azima Shukoor.
Sameer contended that the Attorney General neglected her duties and has advocated on behalf of a political party against the EC, a state institution.
A special sitting of parliament during its ongoing recess has been scheduled for Sunday upon request by 29 MDP MPs.
Deputy leader of PPM’s Parliamentary Group Moosa Zameer told local media outlet CNM today that the PPM would not support such a motion against Shukoor in parliament.
Zameer said that although the PPM had not taken an official stand on the matter, the party would not support removal of its former council member.
However, with the support of at least six out of ten MPs of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – which recently decided to back former President Nasheed in the run-off election – the MDP would have enough votes in parliament to pass the no-confidence motion.