JP member files case seeking Majlis elections delay

Jumhooree Party (JP) Youth Wing President Moosa Anwar has filed a case at the Supreme Court seeking a court order to delay Saturday’s scheduled Majlis elections.

“It is a case saying that the Elections Commission must consist of at least five members including the president of the Elections Commission,” Anwar told Minivan News.

“It’s in article 168 of the constitution. Currently the Elections Commission is not complete. So I don’t believe that they can hold an election.”

The Elections Commission (EC) currently consists of three members – the mandatory quorum needed for the group to hold meetings and pass decisions –  following the Supreme Court’s dismissal of EC President Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Mohamed Fayaz on charges of contempt of court and disobeying the court’s orders.

In the days following the court’s ruling, the Majlis approved Ismail Habeeb as the commission’s third member – joining existing commissioners Ali Mohamed Manik and Mohamed Farooq.

Anwar’s case also concerns the Majlis’ rejection of the Supreme Court’s ruling. A letter sent to senior government figures following the dismissals argued that the EC leadership was removed in contravention of the constitutional procedures governing their appointment and dismissal.

The letter was signed by both the Speaker of the Majlis Ahmed Shahid and Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim – MP’s with the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

“I have also requested the Supreme Court to disqualify their parliament membership and also their candidacy for this election,” said Anwar.

The case was file with the court at 1:30pm today, explained the JP member, although he had yet to receive confirmation that the court had accepted the case.

The Supreme Court earlier this week advised the EC that polls could proceed, despite the failure to gain the signatures of all candidates.

Approval of the voter registry was mandated in the Supreme Court’s 16-point guideline accompanying its annulment of last year’s presidential election first round.

Anwar explained that his decision was not a party one.

“None of the JP leaders have been informed. It was done on my own,” said Anwar.

“It has nothing to do with JP or any other party. This is not a politically motivated case. You will know that the vice president of the Majlis is also a government coalition member.”

Coalition unrest

News of Anwar’s case comes as an audio clip of JP leader Gasim Ibrahim has emerged on social media which appears to indicate unrest within the governing coalition.

In preparation for the upcoming Majlis polls, the three parties in the governing Progressive Coalition – PPM, JP, and Maldives Development Alliance – had agreed to allocate constituencies among the coalition partners, with the PPM contesting 50 seats, the JP contesting 28 seats, and the MDA contesting seven seats.

In the 2:49 clip, Gasim appears to criticise President Abdulla Yameen, former President and PPM leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and Home Minister Umar Naseer.

The audio appears to have been recorded after the revote of the presidential election, held on November 9 in which candidate Gasim finished third.

The court’s decision to annul the first round of the presidential poll came after Gasim had lodged a case alleging inconsistencies within the electoral register used on September 7.

In the recording, Gasim is heard saying that it would not be “easy on the heart” to endorse Yameen as he could not forget the “suffering” of his family under President Gayoom “even if I don’t say anything about it.”

“We couldn’t support Anni [MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed] because his principles are bad. We know how things are with Yameen. They are full of brutality,” he is heard saying.

The opposition MDP meanwhile put out a statement contending that the leaked audio shows that “Honourable Gasim joined the government coalition due to intimidation and political influence.”

As a result of the alleged mistrust among coalition leaders and their efforts to exert political influence over one another, the MDP contended that living standards have fallen and government services have deteriorated in the past four months.

“MDP has always been advocating that in a presidential system the public will not benefit from a coalition government. At such a critical juncture, this [leaked] phone calls has revealed the extent to which the coalition has unraveled,” the statement read.


Supreme Court orders further election delay, reschedules for the 16th

The Maldives Supreme Court has ordered the Elections Commission (EC) and all state institutions to make arrangements for a presidential run-off election on November 16, rather than today as previously scheduled.

News of the latest court ruling came less than an hour after the EC had declared the official results of yesterday’s poll at 4:30am.

The EC also announced its intention to go ahead with the scheduled run-off, with polling times set between 11am and 7:00pm today (November 10).

“The decision made by the EC to hold the second round on the 10th deprives the people from fully obtaining the basic right stated in article 26 of the constitution,” read the Supreme Court ruling (Dhivehi).

The ruling appears to have been drafted prior to the EC press conference, however, as it states that the EC had not yet announced when the provisional results would be held, nor the times for polling.

“Thus the date previously set by Elections Commission (16 November 2013) to hold the second round of presidential elections 2013 is seen as the most appropriate date, [the Supreme Court rules by referring to article (144) of the constitution] that the second round of the presidential election to be held on 10 November 2013 must be postponed, and orders the Election Commission and other relevant state institutions to make arrangements for the second round of presidential elections to be held on 16 November 2013, Saturday.”

The ruling is not signed by any member of the Supreme Court bench, featuring only the court’s stamp.

The Supreme Court ruling suggested that the major reason for the EC’s decision to hold the run-off today was to avoid a supposed constitutional crisis created by the ending of the current president’s term at midnight tonight.

The court, however, argued that its prior ruling (2013/SC-C/42) had provided for this scenario, using the continuity of government principle to keep President Dr Mohamed Waheed in power for any interim period.

During yesterday’s polling, the Supreme Court also met to rule that this previous verdict – one that had annulled the first round of voting from September 7 – also overruled the Majlis’ motion to hand power to Speaker Abdulla Shahid on November 12.

EC Director General Mohamed Shakeel told Minivan News this morning that the ruling meant no polling stations were allowed to open, no materials to be transported, nor any other preparations to be made.

“It states that all institutions in the Maldives are ordered not to provide assistance to the Elections Commission,” he continued. “So then the police won’t help.”

“I just informed polling station officials abroad about the polling start times [at the various overseas locations] and had to call them right back and tell them to halt all preparations,” he lamented, stating that the EC was currently reviewing the order.

This morning’s ruling results from a case filed yesterday by Jumhooree Party’s (JP) Youth Wing leader Moosa Anwar, who argued that the short space between votes might result in the loss of the right to campaign before the next round.

During an EC press conference to announce the provisional results of yesterday’s poll, EC President Fuwad Thowfeek said the date had been agreed by the candidates themselves.

“We are working to have the second round tomorrow. We want to hold it tomorrow as it was agreed by the three candidates, and the president, and all the concerned authorities,” Thowfeek said.

Beyond his press conference Yameen had “not informed” the EC of his refusal to sign the lists, Thowfeek said.
While the PPM initially wanted to sign all the lists, he said they later sent a letter saying they wanted to sign only the changed lists.

Instead, preparations have been hampered by “lack of cooperation” from one candidate, Thowfeek said, which was called by “confusion” over issues involving signing the voters list.

“First we agreed, since it was one day [between the polling rounds], to take just the changed names to a separate list for the candidates to sign. But representatives requested revising the lists and to sign [the changed lists]. We did that but after signing for a while they stopped and asked to change it to the way before. So we said we were ready to do it the way they requested.”

The commission had not heard from the representatives after that, Thowfeek said.

He noted that the EC had agreed to the November 10 date upon request by the president, adding that a new date would mean restarting preparation and additional costs.

“We would face such difficulties so are trying to see if there is a way to go ahead [with the second round]. We hope we will find that path,” Thowfeek said.

“Serious risk of indefinite delay”: Nasheed

As yesterday’s results revealed a second round contest between Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen and Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Yameen immediately announced that he would not be signing the required voting lists for the run-off.

“No, election is not going to happen tomorrow. Simple reason being that the Elections Commission is not prepared for that. Elections Commission does not have a list that has been pre-signed by the candidates. What they have is a fresh list. So a fresh list for us to review and sign, for verification we need at least 48 hours.”

Speaking to Minivan News yesterday evening, Nasheed warned that “if we don’t have elections tomorrow there is a serious risk of indefinite delay as now Waheed is asked to stay on by the Supreme Court. Our opponents know that they will lose in a fair fight.”

“In my view if the international community says that they will not recognise Waheed after November 11 then we will have elections. Then again it’s very difficult to see the international community doing the right thing. We are in this mess because they recognised a rebel government in February 2012,” he said.

Nasheed’s calls to the international community soon resulted in international calls to stick to the arranged election schedule.

The US state department said that delaying the second round beyond the current constitutional requirements “will create uncertainties that may destabilize Maldives.”

“It is unreasonable and unacceptable for parties to continue to demand changes to an agreed election date. Voters deserve a greater degree of predictability over something as serious as a presidential election.”

Similarly, the Commonwealth’s Special Envoy to the Maldives Sir Don McKinnon declared it to be “unreasonable and unacceptable” for parties to continue demanding changes to the agreed election date.

“Any further delays would create uncertainty for the voters, place extra demands on the Elections Commission and lower people’s confidence in the country’s democratic institutions,” he said.

A number of Maldives National Defence Force officer have been found to be circulating an appeal calling on their fellow soldiers not to obey “unlawful” orders issued by President Waheed or his political appointees, following the expiry of his presidential term at midnight on November 10.


Jumhoree Party contest election results amidst rumours of anomalous votes

A group of around 15 Jumhoree Party (JP) supporters demonstrated outside the Dharubaruge convention centre this morning ahead of a delayed Elections Commission (EC) briefing to unveil the country’s provisional election results.

The crowd called for the resignation of EC President Fuwad Thowfeek amidst uncertainty over hours of delays to the results being unveiled and allegations on social media of a discrepancy in vote numbers.

When the press conference did take place – some six hours after originally scheduled – Thowfeek dismissed these claims but said the EC’s complaints department would investigate any reported irregularities.

“Fuwad Thowfeek, resign,” the dozen-strong crowd chanted outside . “Just because you wife is MDP [Maldivian Democratic Party], it doesn’t mean you can steal 10,000 votes.”

The initial results filtering through local media had shown that JP leader Gasim Ibrahim narrowly lost out on a place in the second round of voting, with the MDP and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidates gaining more votes.

The EC’s final results have since revealed the PPM’s Abdulla Yameen beating Gasim to the run-off by 2,677 votes. MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed took the largest share of the vote with 95,224 votes. Incumbent President Dr Mohamed Waheed tallied 10,750 votes – just over five percent of the popular vote.

However, the results had been noted for their confusing presentation, with sluggish EC figures supplemented by differing poll results, depending on the outlet chosen. One local newspaper even had a set of voting figures that equated to 102 percent.

“Fuwad Thowfeek resign”

The highly agitated group, led by Youth Wing leader Moosa Anwar, surrounded the door to the building before falling back upon learning that the EC officials were not yet on the premises. With encouragement from a handful of newly arrived police, the group were soon ushered toward the road, where they sat and continued to chant.

One member of the group told Minivan News that they were calling to have the vote recast, before producing his phone. The tweet displayed on the screen detailed a set of results for Kunahandhoo, in Laamu Atoll – showing 438 eligible voters, but 690 votes cast.

Minivan News was also shown the examples of Paradise resort, and Hinnavaru – both reported with similar anomalous numbers.

Another JP supporter explained that they had learned of the potential problem via the media, and had filed an official complaint.

“Please help us – we want to vote,” one protester said who had heard turnout figure as high as 93 percent. “If they say they will look into it, we will go away.”

The crowd were soon joined by JP MP’s Shifag Mufeed and Ilham Ahmed, as well as party spokesperson Moosa Ramiz, who said he was unable to speak with the media until the party had clarified its position.

Tempers flared at around 4:30 am, with the group suddenly charging the police in an attempt to get into the convention centre. MP Shifag made the most progress before the police forced them all back on to Ameenee Magu.

Shortly after this, the press were invited to go back into the building, and the small crowd began to recede. Commissioner Thowfeek soon arrived to give the long-awaited provisional results.

He gave the final turnout figure as 88 percent (of 239,593 people were eligible to vote), adding that he had not yet had a chance to examine the complaints, although he did state that no person of “sound mind” would believe that 10,000 additional votes could have been cast in the presence of monitors and observers.

Transparency Maldives – who ran the most comprehensive observation operation on the day – had earlier announced that no incidents reported on election day would have a “material impact on the outcome of the election”.


Jumhoree Party backtracks on challenging Nasheed’s candidacy in Supreme Court

Jumhoree Party (JP) Youth Wing President Moosa Anwar has backtracked on an earlier declaration that he would seek to challenge the Elections Commission’s decision to accept former President Mohamed Nasheed as a presidential candidate in the upcoming election through the Supreme Court.

Hours after making the announcement Anwar reversed his decision, stating that he had been advised to do so by Jumhoree Party officials after he was unable to convince an attorney to take the case.

Anwar lodged a similar lawsuit at the then interim Supreme Court contesting the candidacy of Nasheed prior to the 2008 presidential elections.

Anwar previously contested that Nasheed had been convicted and sentenced for theft in 2001 for taking documents that were to be disposed from Velaanaage, the house belonging to former President Ibrahim Nasir – without permission.

According to media reports at the time, Nasheed attended the auction of the house in October 2001 along with then Minister for Construction and Public Works Umar Zahir and his Assistant Director Ibrahim Fayaz.

Nasheed pulled out scraps of discarded paper from the waste of the partially demolished house, which he later packed and labelled for donation to the National Council of Linguistic and Historical Research.

“They laughed and joked as Nasheed pulled scraps of discarded paper from the dust and rubble of the partially demolished house. Minister Rashida Yusuf was delighted when she recognised former President Nasir’s children’s schoolwork that had been marked by her when she had been his teacher many years ago,” read a special report by the Maldives Culture website.

“These papers were collected by Nasheed who later packed and labelled them for donation to the National Council of Linguistic and Historical Research. It was at this point that Nasheed was arrested and held in solitary confinement for a month before being charged and found guilty of theft, and then sentenced to two and a half years exile in Raa Atoll, away from his family and children who live in Male’. The whole process was over in about two and half hours. Mohamed Nasheed had never admitted to the charges of theft, and the judge denied him his legal rights to present his case or respond to the charges made against him,” according to Maldives Culture’s account of the incident.

The prosecution succeeded in removing Nasheed from his seat in parliament –  a move labelled as politically motivated by various international human rights watchdogs.

An appeal in 2002 against the conviction was rejected by the government – which at the time was also the head of judiciary – despite the attorneys who examined the case pointing to grave flaws in the judgement.

Anwar meanwhile contended that the former president’s conviction was a hadd offence under Islamic Sharia and therefore, Nasheed did not satisfy the criteria set out in constitution for a person to hold the office of president.

Article 109(E) of the constitution demands that a person who holds the office of the president and those that are contesting for the post of presidency must “not have been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term of more than 12 months, unless a period of three years has elapsed since his release, or pardon for the offence for which he was sentenced”.

The then interim Supreme Court ruled in favour of the former president and declared the Elections Commission’s decision to accept his candidacy as valid, stating that Nasheed’s sentence was not a Hadd offence but a Ta’zir offence under Islamic Sharia.

Under Islamic Sharia law, unlike a Hadd offence which the punishment is prescribed in the holy Quran, Ta’zir offences are punishments applied to the other offences for which no punishment is specified in the Qur’an. It is a lesser degree of offence compared to Hadd offences, and the punishment varies depending on the discretion of the judge or the Qazi.

Anwar told Minivan News today that his latest petition at the Supreme Court would be based on the same grounds with which he challenged Nasheed’s candidacy in 2008. He claimed that he did not believe that Nasheed was eligible to contest in the presidential polls and would lodge the case as soon as the Elections Commission formally announced the candidates list.

Anwar’s submission comes after the five day deadline given by Election Commission regulations to challenge the candidacy of potential presidents. Anwar however had a different interpretation.

“Even back in 2008, I was able to file the case after the time frame given by the Elections Commission. Therefore, I do not believe there was any deadline to file such a case concerning a presidential candidate,” he told Minivan News.

Anwar said he had made several requests to attorneys registered at the Supreme Court to take up the case, but said they were all “too scared” over how “emotional” President Nasheed and his party Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters are.

Therefore, Anwar claimed that he would go all by himself to the Supreme Court, and utilise his “knowledge of the law” during his years spent studying at the faculty of Sharia and Law of the Maldives National University.

“I think it is a problem that our lawyers, judges, police and the military are so afraid of a single individual or a political organisation,” Anwar said, referring to Nasheed and the MDP.

Meanwhile, President Nasheed’s Spokesperson MP Mariya Ahmed Didi told Minivan News that the Supreme Court had previously set strong precedents upholding the Article 60 of the constitutions which prohibits double jeopardy.

Overturning parliament’s deposing of Chair of Civil Service Commission Mohamed Fahmy, the Supreme Court upheld the principle of prohibiting double jeopardy, contending that Fahmy would receive two punishments for the same crime if he was to be removed from his position over the alleged sexual harassment case which is currently looked into by the Prosecutor General.

Therefore, Didi contended that she was confident that the Supreme Court would not accept the case as it was previously decided by the Supreme Court in 2008.

She further claimed that Nasheed’s rival in the election, resort tycoon and presidential hopeful Gasim Ibrahim, was behind the submission of the case, suggesting the move was a desperate ploy in the face of Nasheed’s broad electoral popularity.


Supreme Court concludes hearing concerning MP Abdul Hameed’s disqualification from public office

The Supreme Court has concluded hearings of a suit filed by Presidential Commission member Abdulla Haseen, to determine whether independent MP Abdul Hameed’s seat in the parliament is vacant.

The Criminal Court has previously ruled that MP Abdul Hameed was guilty of corruption, a verdict that disqualifies him from holding public office as an MP.

According to the constitution, any MP sentenced to a term longer than one year will be disqualified and his seat will be vacant. Hameed was sentenced to 18 months banishment.

Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Ilham Ahmed, Jumhoory Party (JP) Youth Wing Leader Moosa Anwar, Adam Asif of Laamu Atoll Gan, and Hameed requested the court authorise them to speak in the hearing and were granted permission.

Speaking in the court, Hameed’s lawyer said that he still had a right to appeal any decision, and requested the Supreme Court declare that such a suit could be conducted.

Ilham’s lawyer said that following the ruling of Criminal Court, Hameed’s seat was vacant, and claimed that the parliament was deadlocked because of Hameed’s attempt to sit and take part in the parliament sessions.

He also requested the Supreme Court declare that Hameed could not attend parliament sittings prior to the conclusion of the case.

Asif’s lawyer also contested  that Hameed’s seat was now vacant, adding that after the Criminal Court’s ruling, Hameed did not qualify to be an MP.

Concluding the hearing, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz said that there will no more hearings of the suit and that the court will now conclude the case.