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Maldives: Supreme Court’s "over reach" in the conduct of Presidential Elections:

Paper No. 5580                Dated 17-Oct-2010

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan.

Will anyone believe that the highest court in Maldives has met three times at midnight in the last three weeks to give executive directions to the Elections Commission in the conduct of the presidential elections?

Of these, two of the recent meetings were to satisfy a particular individual who after requesting the court to postpone the elections by a month, is now using all means to ensure that fresh elections do not take place on the 19th as rescheduled by the Election Commission.

On 11th October, the Supreme Court met at midnight to order the Election Commission to restart from scratch the process of re registering an estimated 65,000 voters who wished to vote at a place different from their home island.

Following these orders, the political parties had to rush with the new finger print forms to re register through the department of National Registration. There were long queues of thousands of people waiting to be re registered and the computer systems also broke down. Still the assistants processing the forms had to do it manually and issue receipts pending the restoration of the system. The task undertaken was a stupendous one and yet the staff worked overtime to complete the registration before the dead line.

As this process was going on, the Supreme Court again met at midnight on 13/14 ( it was a Sunday!) And issued an order to address the complaints of any individual who has the right to stand for elections "including verification of finger prints on re registration forms through the department of National Registrations."

Promptly, the candidate of the PPM Abdulla Yameen said that it would be hard for him to approve the voter registry ( a must as per the verdict of the Supreme Court) should the Election Commission not verify the finger prints.

Abdulla Yameen knows very well that Maldives does not have the facility to verify every finger print on the scale of a national presidential election within the limited time available though individual verification for ID cards could be made in a few cases. This was also conceded by the running mate of Jumhooree party Dr. Hassan Saeed.

If every finger print of the re registration application is to be verified with the facilities available in Maldives, it is conceded that it would take a minimum of six months.

As pointed out by the MDP Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, it is nothing but a cynical attempt by the PPM and its candidate to prevent elections from taking place on October 19.

The MDP also pointed out that it is "extremely concerned" that the Supreme Court is interfering in the electoral process for political reasons, "issuing unconstitutional rulings and acting with impunity."

The Election Commission Chief said on 13th that "there are groups of people who want to block the vote . . . those who know that they may not do well, so they are trying to buy time and make the election difficult." This is certainly a reference to Abdulla Yameen the PPM candidate.

The PPM supporters went to the extent of even obstructing the smooth conduct of re registration on the 15th and threatened the officials. The Maldivian Police took its own time to come to the scene (five hours) and remove the protesters.

President Waheed also appears to be indirectly supporting the PPM candidate. Though he formally withdrew his candidacy yesterday in his speech on Eid-al-Adha, he made a mischievous comment that there is "room for doubt"over the integrity and fairness of polls. He is still the chief executive and it is surprising that he not only abdicated his functions to the Supreme Court but also has taken sides in the ongoing difficulties experienced in the conduct of the presidential elections.

The Human rights committee of the UK’s Bar has pointed out that the verdict is troubling in the context of the ongoing international criticism concerning lack of independence of the Maldivian judiciary and lack of adequate separation of powers.

In an earlier paper of June 14, 2013 (Paper 5509) I had mentioned that there is a fear of the judicial process being used to prevent Nasheed from contesting. These fears appear to be justified now.

 

 

 

 

 

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