Commonwealth observers recommend Majlis examine “consistency and workability” of Supreme Court guidelines

The Commonwealth Observer Group who monitored the 2013 presidential polls has recommended that the People’s Majlis examine the consistency and workability of the Supreme Court’s 16-point electoral guideline.

The guideline, issued following the annulment of the September 7 first round of polls, “appeared to undermine the authority of the Election Commission, were inconsistent with or contrary to electoral law, and were at odds with the Constitution,” the Observer Group said in its final report.

The report obtained by Minivan News also condemned the Maldives Police Services’ obstruction of the October 19 presidential polls as “unacceptable.”

The Supreme Court annulled the September 7 presidential poll citing widespread electoral fraud despite international and domestic praise of a free and fair vote.

The Elections Commission (EC) has criticised the guidelines as “restrictions” that limit the power of the independent state institution. The guidelines give candidates veto over the elections as their signature is mandated on the voter registry.

The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and 295 independent candidates have failed to approve the voter registry for the local council elections scheduled for Saturday. However, the EC has decided to proceed with polls.

The Commonwealth Observer Group found the 2013 presidential polls credible despite the Supreme Court’s constraints, the report said.


The Chairperson of the Commonwealth Observer Group Dr Lawrence Gonzi said many of the Supreme Court’s guidelines were “incompatible with existing Maldivian electoral law, and in our view, do not conform with electoral best practice.”

Several national stakeholders had told the group that the guidelines were “cumbersome and impractical.”

In international best practice, no significant changes should be made to the electoral framework six months prior to an election, the report said.

“The Group was therefore particularly concerned that the guidelines given by the court in effect changed the electoral procedures in the middle of the electoral process, creating a great deal of unnecessary uncertainty and confusion,” the report read.

If the legislative and regulatory framework governing the electoral process is to be changed, the legislature instead of the judiciary must undertake the task, the report said.

The group called on the Majlis to make amendments it believes necessary to the existing law to ensure all future elections are conducted “according to the proper legal framework.”

Further, the group has recommended that the mandate and the statutory constitutional independence of the EC be recognised.


The Supreme Court’s annulment of the September 7 election and cancellation of three subsequent elections “severely tested the democratic process in the Maldives,” the report said.

The group reiterated that the first round of polls held on September 7 were “credible and consistent with the international standards to which the Maldives has committed itself.”

The report highlighted that the EC was not given access or right of response to a police forensic report based on which the Supreme Court annulled the election.

The annulment of the polls and the lack of predictability of the electoral timetable led to a deterioration of the “largely positive political environment observed in early September” while political parties reported a negative effect on their ability to campaign, the report said.

It also noted that EC members and staff were subject to death threats and verbal harassment over alleged vote fraud.

Voter registry

In the Supreme Court verdict, four of the seven judges invalidated 5,623 votes claiming they were repeated votes, votes cast by dead people, and votes cast by people who had discrepancies in their names and addresses.

The court then ordered the EC to discard its registry and rely on the Home Ministry’s Department of National Registration (DNR) to compile a new voter registry.

However, the Commonwealth Observer Group has praised the EC’s voter registry noting that the EC “took steps to ensure accuracy of information and transparency in the administration of the process.”

The EC had engaged the electorate, providing two periods for verification of information and amendments, the report said.

Furthermore, “fears expressed by some political parties regarding possible large numbers of deceased voters remaining on the list and voters registered in the wrong geographic area seem to be unfounded,” the report added.

The group has recommended that the EC maintain a separate voter registry and said that it “should have sole responsibility for, and be empowered to ensure, the credibility and accuracy of that register in accordance with the 2008 constitution of the Maldives.”

The report said the group was consistently “impressed by the enduring commitment of the Maldivian people to the democratic process, who on each occasion have turned out to vote in very high numbers.”

Further, the group said it is “impressed by the professionalism of the Elections Commission and its staff, who have shown a great determination to fulfill their mandate in extremely challenging circumstances.”

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has meanwhile warned of collusion between the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the Supreme Court to subvert the local council elections.

“We clearly know political party leaders are bribing judges,” said Nasheed, stating that the Supreme Court’s attempt to “steal elections” and “destroy the Maldives” will be written in history.


Social media storm surrounds “national hero” Thowfeek

The Chair of the Elections Commission (EC) Fuwad Thowfeek has been under heavy fire from supporters, politicians and presidential candidates belonging to both the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhooree Party (JP).

Thowfeek has been subjected to heavy criticism ever since  the Elections Commission announced the preliminary results of the first round of presidential election held last September 7 – which eventually came to a bitter end after the Supreme Court annulled the poll on the grounds of irregularities and discrepancies.

After consulting a secret report by the police, the court found that discrepancies amounted to a “systematic failure”.

More verbal attacks from supporters of the JP, led by resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, and former autocratic ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s PPM followed after the EC yesterday announced it could not hold the re-scheduled poll, after police refused to cooperate with the commission and prevented the election from taking place.

Since the disputes concerning the elections arose, Thowfeek has been subjected to massive criticism – including personal attacks launched against him, his wife and his family. Supporters of both PPM and JP used Twitter and Facebook hash-tags #FraudThaufeeq and #FraudFuad as part of the attacks directed at him, while Thowfeek himself has said he and his staff have received death threats.

The criticism not only limited to just verbal attacks. Thowfeek was also depicted in photo-shopped pictures suggesting his independence had been compromised. One of the photos depicted him being tied to a chair and held at gun point by the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed.

National Hero

Alternatively, hundreds of Maldivians on social media have also appeared in support of Thowfeek, with some labelling him a “national hero”.

A Facebook page titled “Our Heroes” also appeared yesterday shortly after the EC’s decision to call off the election, that quickly received more than 5,300 followers less than 48 hours after it first appeared.

“This is a community page to express our heartfelt thanks and gratitude, admiration and respect, to the People’s Heroes: Fuad Thaufeeq and his dedicated team working tirelessly for our right to vote,” read the page’s introduction.

The page posted messages of gratitude to Thowfeek received from users who followed the page.

“If anyone is to get a medal of honour, it is you Fuad and the rest of your team. We Maldivians love you all,” read one such statement.

Another supporter wrote on the page, “Thank you so much for standing up against the corrupt and working tirelessly for a better Maldives”.

“EC team has shown professionalism to a heroic level. Proud of you, EC team,” wrote another person.

Supporters also uploaded posters expressing gratitude to Thowfeek and the EC’s work. One such poster, 10 year-old Imaan, gives the EC an ‘A plus’ for “For being fair, fighting for our rights, trying very hard and not giving up”.

Meanwhile on twitter, supporters of Thowfeek used the hashtag #InFuadweTrust to convey their messages of gratitude.

“Where there is a Fuad, there is a way,” one individual tweeted.

“Saddest day at work”

Amidst the comments on social media, Thowfeek told local media that Saturday had been his  “saddest day at work”.

“I have never experienced such a big disappointment in my life. A large number of public funds are being wasted every time. This is my greatest disappointment. It is hurts to know that our efforts put in the past 11 days, day and night did not bear any fruit. The last five years, I haven’t seen my staff so let down. They appear like they had been beheaded,” Thowfeek told local newspaper Haveeru yesterday.

The EC earlier announced that it had decided to take “no rest and no sleep” until it was able to hold the presidential election -scheduled for Saturday but blocked by police at the last minute.

The unrelenting efforts by the EC  to hold the poll were stalled after the police refused to cooperate with the commission. The police argued that the EC had failed to fulfill one of the prerequisites mentioned in the Supreme Court guideline, requiring presidential candidates or their representatives to sign and have their fingerprints on the voter lists that were to be sent to polling booths.

“Come to think about it, I have never seen a group of people who have worked this hard. Some of them continue working even as they keep falling asleep. When ever they doze off, they wake themselves up and start working again. They worked to the extent until they collapse, they were only able to continue because of their courage and determination,” Thowfeek said.

“They worked so hard and yet no result came out of their hard work. Their grief and hurt would be much greater than mine. They would be far more disappointed than I am,” he added.

Shortly after the EC called off the election, an official from the commission told Minivan News that “Thowfeek was up for over 48 hours just to keep up the moral of EC staff”.

The official praised Thowfeek for leading by example and making himself available to EC officials and staff at all times to alleviate concerns during their efforts to prepare for presidential election in just 11 days.

“While the other commissioners are good, Commissioner Thowfeek is something else, he is inspirational and we salute him,” the official said.

Despite the EC’s efforts not resulting in an election, Thowfeek appeared confident.

“I will not bow down and go home. Because I do not see it as a solution to the problem. I will renew my hopes. I will give my maximum strength until an election is decided. People are hungry for elections,” Thowfeek said.


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.


India calls for free, fair, inclusive and credible election, and a smooth transition of power

The government of India in a statement released on Thursday called on all Maldivian stakeholders to work towards holding a “free, fair, inclusive and credible election in a peaceful environment followed by a smooth transition on November 11”.

“As a close friend and neighbour, India has consistently supported the strengthening of democratic processes and institutions in Maldives. We believe that it is important that the stalled electoral process is put back on track,” the statement read.

“India strongly urges that the fresh elections dates stipulated in the verdict are adhered to so that a new President is elected in accordance with the wishes and democratic aspirations of the people of Maldives,” the statement added.

The statement comes at a time when the Elections Commission (EC) is preparing to hold the presidential election on October 19, after the previous election held on September 7 was annulled by the Supreme Court citing discrepancies in the poll.

Supreme Court judgement and its complications

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.

The judgement also laid down a “guideline” consisting of 16 points which the court claimed were necessary to be followed by the Elections Commission to ensure a free and fair, credible elections. These included a provision stating that re-registration form should only be accepted if it had the name, address, identity card number and fingerprint of the person requesting re-registration, the person submitting the form as well as [the same information of] two witnesses.

However, in a later order by the Supreme Court last Friday, the Elections Commission was ordered to restart the process of compiling the voter registry for those individuals who wished to vote in a location other than their place of domicile, disregarding previous re-registration.

This led the Elections Commission and political parties to begin a last minute re-registration drive to ensure all voters who wished to vote in a different island than their island of permanent residence were able to do so. Unless re-registered, these voters will now not get the opportunity to cast their ballot.

The Elections Commission has meanwhile said that it expects at least a minimum 60,000 people to have registered within the short time period. The commission has also said that it has been working round the clock to ensure the elections happen as according to the schedule given by the Supreme Court.

The ruling to annul the first round also contradicted the positive assessments of more than a thousand local and international election observers.

No legal void even if no presidential elect is determined by November 11: Supreme Court

Meanwhile India’s latest statement notes that it is important to follow the deadlines set forth in the constitution and the law.

“We deplore the recent incidents of political violence and appeal to all sides to maintain peace and calm and to refrain from extra-constitutional measures,” read the statement.

“We encourage all concerned in Maldives to work for free, fair, inclusive and credible elections in a peaceful environment followed by a smooth transition on 11 November 2013, as stipulated by the Constitution of Maldives.

In this regard, we welcome the statement issued by the Maldives’ President condemning efforts to stop former President Mohamed Nasheed from running for office of President of Maldives,” the statement added.

However, the Supreme Court’s judgement now means that even if a new president was unable to be sworn in on conclusion of the presidential term on November 11, the “principle of continuity of legitimate government would override any repercussions faced by failure to adhere to constitutional deadlines.”

India in its statement also assured that its commitment to work with the Government of Maldives and its state institutions for success of elections.

The Indian statement also coincided with a similar statement by the United Kingdom.

The UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague stated that “It is imperative that there are no further delays and the elections are free, fair and inclusive, and that international observers are invited.”

“It is important now that the democratic process proceeds in accordance with the Constitution,” Hague stated, calling on presidential candidates to respect the democratic process “and create conditions for free, fair elections.”

Meanwhile an early day motion was tabled in the UK Parliament calling upon the House of Commons to support the UN secretary general’s call for a “credible and peaceful second round of voting” in the Maldives.

The motion, sponsored by MP Grahame Morris, also called upon members of the House of Commons to declare that it “condemns those who are seeking to prevent President Mohamed Nasheed from participating in any future elections in the Maldives; further condemns the perpetrators of the arson attack that destroyed the opposition-supporting Raaje TV station in Male’; and demands that the authorities take all necessary steps to bring the perpetrators to justice.”


President condemns PPM’s bid to annul Nasheed’s candidacy, suspend printing of ballot papers

The President’s Office has “condemn[ed] efforts by individuals to stop former President Mr Mohamed Nasheed from running for Office of President of Maldives.”

“[President Waheed] believes this is not the time to engage in efforts to obstruct or bar candidates from going through the electoral process. It will not help resolve the already volatile political situation in Maldives,” the President said.

The statement follows the filing of a petition at the Supreme Court against the Elections Commission (EC), challenging the candidacy of opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate and former President Nasheed.

The Supreme Court petition filed today (October 10) states as grounds for stripping Nasheed’s candidacy his “outright criticism towards Islam and imposing Islamic Sharia’ in the Maldives” and his criticism of the judiciary.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Council Member Ibrahim ‘Wadde’ Waheed and President of the ‘Madhanee Iththihaadh’ (Civil Alliance) Sheikh Mohamed Didi filed the case.

The parties to the case have requested the court issue an injunction to order the Elections Commission to suspend its efforts to print ballot papers.

In an about-turn, however, the PPM has officially said the party is negotiating with ‘Wadde’ Waheed to have the case withdrawn, arguing that he had not consulted with the party leadership.

“The international community is calling for an inclusive free and fair election which all candidates are allowed to contest. We know from the language used in their statements that their remarks point to one specific individual. With the filing of the case, this issue has taken international limelight,” PPM Council Member – daughter of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – and State Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon told the press today.

The move comes shortly after the Supreme Court annulled the first round of Presidential Elections, following a petition filed by the Jumhoree Party (JP) contesting that the entire electoral process had been flawed due to discrepancies and irregularities amounting to a “systematic failure”.

The Supreme Court – in a four to three decision – annulled the poll citing electoral irregularities, despite unanimous positive assessment of the polling by more than a thousand local and international election observers.

The majority ruling cited a confidential police report submitted to the court claiming that 5623 votes were ineligible. The report has not been made public and the legal counsel of the Elections Commission was never given the opportunity to present a counter argument.

The three judges who had dissenting views raised doubts as to the credibility of the evidence submitted by the plaintiffs, while also challenging the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over the case.

“Devious attempts”

Minivan News understands that the Supreme Court petition filed by Didi and Waheed requests that the court declare Nasheed not be allowed to contest in any election held in the country.

MDP Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy – who is himself being prosecuted for criticising the courts – told Minivan News on Thursday that the petition was a “very dirty” attempt by their rivals to invalidate a candidate who had the demonstrable support of at least 45 percent of the people.

“These people are trying to finish through the court things that should be decided through the vote of the people,” said Minivan News.

“All these devious attempts tell one story. They have realised the huge defeat they have succumbed to, even before the elections. So now, their only hope it seems is to destroy the democratic values of this country, and try to contest in this election unopposed,” he added.

During a short press briefing given today after meeting the German Ambassador, Nasheed told the press that the lawsuit was not intended simply to bar him from the presidential poll, but also to ground the entire election.

“They are seeking the injunction to prevent printing of the ballot papers to delay the election as names of all candidates would be in the ballot paper,” Nasheed told the media.

The Elections Commission has previously said that no candidate would be allowed to withdraw their names even if they had decided not to contest, citing the Supreme Court’s annulment verdict which only ordered a repeat of the voting process, and not the filing of candidacy.

The former president has reiterated that, despite all efforts made to delay the elections, his MDP would go on to easily win the election.

“My opponents are advocating to bar anyone from opposing them – myself – from contesting in the presidential election. They are attempting to disallow political parties from contesting in the election, to ensure that credible elections never take place.”

“They are trying to override the highest order of the country, which is the people, and give that to the police and the military,” Nasheed said, speaking in a campaign rally on Wednesday evening in Faafu Atoll.

Nasheed’s candidacy was formally accepted by the Elections Commission in mid-July.

Nasheed and the MDP noted the politically-motivated earlier attempts to obstruct him from contesting the election, pointing to the presence of political opponents on the JSC including a rival presidential candidate.

That trial – into the detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed – subsequently stalled at the high court level, after the Chief Judge Ahmed Shareef issued an injunction.

A day later the JSC suspended Shareef for what it claimed was an unrelated matter. His suspension was this week upheld by the Civil Court.

Annulment of candidacy

Should today’s PPM case be accepted by the Supreme Court, it would constitute a second attempt to bar Nasheed from contesting in a presidential election.

In October 2008 the JP’s Youth League leader Moosa Anwar filed a similar petition contending that Nasheed was not eligible to contest in the 2008 presidential election as he had been convicted for theft, which is a Hadd offence.

However, the interim Supreme Court ruled in favour of Nasheed, declaring that he was eligible to contest in the election whilst also rejecting the claim that Nasheed had been sentenced for a Hadd offence.

Earlier in March, former Human Rights Minister Dhiyana Saeed alleged that a Supreme Court judge had instructed her to file a case against Nasheed in a bid to prevent him from running for presidency in the 2013 presidential elections. Following the request, Saeed sent a letter to the Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain requesting him to investigate the matter.

Among the suggestions given by the judge, Saeed claimed at the time, were filing a case concerning Nasheed’s decision to remove eight members of parliament appointed by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, prior to the ratification of the constitution.

Another suggestion given by the judge, Saeed alleged, was to refile the case filed by Anwar in 2008 against Nasheed.


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.


Two more MNDF officers suspended indefinitely, Brigadier General removed from command

The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) has suspended two more officers, and removed Brigadier General Abdulla Shamaal from his position as the Commandant of Training and Doctrine (CTD).

The move comes just three days after the MNDF introduced an amendment to its own regulations to include a chapter that imposes punishments and penalties against officers who incite ‘upheaval and chaos’ within the military ranks.

Hours after the new amendments were brought into force, First Lieutenant Abdulla Shareef was handed an ‘indefinite suspension’ from the service on the grounds that he was found guilty of attempting to cause upheaval and chaos within the military rank.

During the early hours of Friday, the MNDF in a statement on its website made the announcement that two more officers – Sergeant First Class Ali Waheed and Lance Corporal Sharhaab Rashid – had been given an indefinite suspension.

According to the statement, both the officers had been suspended under the section 4(a) of the MNDF Employment Regulation – the same provision which the MNDF justified the suspension of First Lieutenant Abdulla Shareef.

The statement claimed that Sergeant First Class Ali Waheed had been suspended for inciting “upheaval and discord” among the ranks of the military while Lance Corporal Sharhaab Rashid had been suspended for “disseminating confidential information to the public without authorisation”.

Meanwhile, the suspensions also coincided with the removal of Brigadier General Abdulla Shamaal from his position as Commandant of Training and Doctrine (CTD).

Brigadier General Shamaal, who was promoted from Colonel to Brigadier General in 2010 during former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration, has undergone extensive military training and education, acquiring expertise in the field of defense and security studies.

He is currently a member of United Nations Senior Experts on Security Sector Reform (SSR) Roster – the first ever Maldivian to acquire membership on the roster.

Apart from the Commandant of Training and Doctrine of MNDF, Brigadier General Shamaal is also a Commandant of the MNDF Marine Corp.

MNDF Media Official Colonel Abdul Raheem confirmed to local media that two officers Sergeant First Class Ali Waheed and Lance Corporal Sharhaab Rashid had been suspended indefinitely.

He also confirmed that Brigadier General Abdulla Shamaal had been removed from his position, but said he did not exactly know the reason for the removal. However, Colonel Raheem said that MNDF has not yet taken any decision to remove Brigadier General Shamaal from his position as Commandant of the MNDF Marine Corp.

The ‘anti upheaval and chaos’ amendment that has now become the 22nd chapter of the Military Regulation dictates that upheavals and chaos that are incited through speech, writing, action or gesture among members of the military will be subjected to administrative punishments and penalties.

The new definition of incitement of ‘upheaval and chaos’ laid down in the new amendment includes:

  • Making demands through petitions drawn among two or more officers
  • Displaying content that could sow discord and disorder amongst military flanks through speech, writing, graphical depictions, photographs or any other means
  • Speech or conduct that amounts to doubts and questions being raised about the legality of an order given to the officers or a group of officers and
  • Incitement of hatred and false allegations towards the upper ranks of the military.

The suspensions and actions taken against senior MNDF officers are believed to have begun following a letter of concern sent to the Chief of Defense Force Major General Ahmed Shiyam by senior officers of the MNDF.

In the letter, the officers raised concerns over threats to national security and internal security following the recent Supreme Court order to indefinitely suspend the run-off election of the Presidential Election – which could possibly lead the country to a state of constitutional limbo.

A leaked copy of the letter obtained by Minivan News suggested that Brigadier General Abdulla Shamaal was the first person to sign the letter.

MNDF Media Official Colonel Raheem – a signatory of the letter himself – confirmed the authenticity of the letter, telling Minivan News last week that it had been intended to inform the MNDF leadership of their “concerns about political turbulence in the country right now and how the military should plan and prepare for it”.

In a similar notion, Former Male Area Commander of MNDF Retired Brigadier General Ibrahim Mohamed Didi – who is publicly regarded as a hero for his exploits during the 1988 Tamil coup attempt – in a letter published on social media advised military officers to uphold the law and constitution regardless of who attempted to undermine it.

“My advice to the military officers is: ‘Do not give the opportunity to anyone who plans to rule this country by taking the laws to their own hands and override the constitution and undermine the constitutional framework of this country’,” wrote the ex-Brigadier General.


Foreign parties may take advantage if we undermine our own institutions: President Waheed

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan today vowed to reject any external attempts to intervene in the country’s affairs, which he argued could be avoided if the national interest was put first.

He appealed to the public, state institutions, and the security services to remain calm and patient until the Supreme Court decides the fate of the presidential election.

Waheed said that the greatest right of the people in a democratic society was the right to freely cast their ballot to elect their ruler. He noted that it was an obligation of the state to ensure each vote was counted as valid, and to not allow more than one vote to be cast under the name of any one person.

President Waheed made the call during an address to the state today (October 2) – his first address since being defeated in the presidential polls, finishing with just 5.13 percent of the popular vote.

Finding a quick solution to the problems regarding the elections through the Supreme Court is of utmost importance in cooling down the already heated-up political environment of the country, he noted.

“If we undermine and discredit these institutions, it is always possible that foreign parties may try to enforce alternative ways. Therefore, in deciding Maldivian matters, Maldivians can make decisions only by defending our constitution and the institutions formed under it – by supporting one institution to the other. Not by attempting to destroy one another,” said the president.

Third placed Jumhooree Party (JP) candiate – resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim – filed a petition at the Supreme Court requesting the apex court annul the election, alleging “systematic” voter fraud despite unanimous positive assessments by local and international election observers.

The Supreme Court ordered the Elections Commission (EC) to suspend all efforts to hold a run-off election until it concludes the case.

The EC initially contested the constitutionality of the order, attempting to proceed with the election, before a second court order demanding the security services obstruct the run-off led the commission to declare the current political environment not conducive to free and fair elections.

Following the decision fears that the country was heading into a constitutional void increased, while international organisations and nation states called for the holding of run-off elections as soon as possible.

“If the claims of electoral discrepancies hold any truth, verifying those claims is of utmost importance in calming the situation. Presidential candidates, political parties, individual citizens, foreign organisations and nations are all waiting to see the election being held as quickly as possible and to see the new president take oath on November 11,” said President Waheed.

“Today, our nascent democracy is experiencing a new wave of efforts to strengthen it.  The vote of every individual citizen is his most sacrosanct right. In every election held so far, we have heard of discrepancies in the voting process. So in this election, and those that are to come in the future, taking into account the fact that ensuring that every citizen’s vote is a valid vote is fundamental to strengthening democracy,”  he added.

Foreign intervention and security services

President Waheed also responded indirectly to recent remarks made by the former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed. Shaheed tweeted stating that India should enforce Right to Protect (R2P) Protocol in resolving the current political crisis.

Shaheed claimed that he did not believe that the “constitutional and political crisis in the Maldives will be resolved without international assistance”.

“I strongly condemn those people who are calling for foreign military intervention into our country and requesting foreign assistance in attempts to topple the government. We are not afraid of such calls. We are also prepared to defend our country from those who are to take over the government of the Maldives,” Waheed said.

“We can solve our own problems. Maldivian people are people who had resolved far more complicated issues on their own in the past. However, if issues are not resolved quickly and get lengthened, it would lead to foreign parties wanting to intervene into our domestic problems.

“The reason is, we will have to appeal for foreign assistance to help establish peace and order, in case the situation gets worse and goes out of our own hands. Also, some of those among us are already appealing for the assistance of foreign parties,” he added.

Waheed also noted that “every time our country falls into a situation of chaos, it is door of opportunity opened to foreign parties to intervene and meddle with our domestic affairs”.

“I call upon the police and the MNDF to prioritise the greater interest of this state, to support and assist institutions formed to maintain rule of law, to remain sincere in upholding the law and the constitution,” Waheed urged.

“If we undermine and discredit these institutions, it is always possible that foreign parties may try to enforce alternative ways. Therefore, in deciding Maldivian matters, Maldivians can make decisions only by defending our constitution and the institutions formed under it – by supporting one institution to the other. Not by attempting to destroy one another,” said the president.

He also said that this is not the time for three powers of the state to attack each other and called on them to find a solution through dialogue and discourse.

“This is the time, where we should prioritise the safety and security of our people; this the time, where we should prioritize the national interest over individual political ambitions,” Waheed noted. “This country is not just the country of one person, or one [political] group. This country belongs to all of us. Any damage we incur as a state is a damage incurred by all the people,”

President Waheed also called on all political parties, presidential candidates and the public to accept any decision made by the Supreme Court regarding the elections.

“A president elected through a free and fair election is a president of all of us. I assure you all that I would give all the assistance needed for the presidential elect. Likewise, I am certain that all other state institutions would give us the support to him in that respect,” he said.