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Maldives: Some Positive developments:

Paper No 5588           Dated 20-Oct-2013

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

Recent Developments in Maldives seem to have upset the international community and rightly so. When all the international observers termed the first and now annulled elections of September 7 as fair and credible, the Supreme Court took the extreme step of not only annulling the elections, but also giving specific guide lines to another constitutional body- here the Election Commission as to how the election should be conducted.

One of the conditions given by the Supreme Court that every electoral list should be physically and individually signed, could not have been done within the time frame available and this was known to everyone. This helped two of the candidates who trailed behind the leading candidate of the MDP, to get the elections postponed indefinitely- firstly be refusing to sign the lists on the prescribed dates and by making themselves "scarce" a day before the elctions. There was a little help from the Supreme Court when approached,to follow the guide lines!

In the last few days some positive trends are seen and there is an attempt to go through the elections on the revised schedule starting from November 9 and a run off if need be on the 19th.

These developments include:

* President Waheed in an interview to an Indian media, declared that he would demit office on the 11th November when his term expires and that he would not remain as President a day longer. This was a very wise decision and he must have realised by now that he is now being "used" by unscrupulous elements. Unless the Supreme Court intervenes, the two trailing candidates Gasim Ibrahim and Abdulla Yameen will then be forced to review their strategy and get on with the elections. The reason is, that once Waheed is gone, in the absence of an alternative the presidency will be taken over by the Speaker who is a member of MDP.

* As expected, with the majority in the Majlis, the MDP passed a resolution to hand over the presidency to the Speaker of the Majlis Abdulla Shahid in the absence of a president elect by November 11. Gasim Ibrahim, one of the candidates reacted immediately that the decision to hand over presidential powers to the Speaker of the Parliament is against the constitution and "does not need to be implemented." It looked that he would again approach the Supreme Court ( I repeat here what I said before- there appears to be no other court in the Maldives to deal with such cases!)

* With these developments, Yameen the other candidate took the initiative to meet Nasheed of the MDP to find a way forward from the fresh complications that have arisen.

* Then, all the three candidates, Nasheed, Yameen and Gasim met the Election Commission on the 28th to make a request to pre pone the first election to 2nd of November and the run off if need be, to 7th November. The EC declined the request on the ground that the commission lacks the facilities to have it earlier. The finalised list can be sent only on 3rd to the department of registration and the verification by the individual candidates can be done by November 5 and 6 so that the elections can take place as scheduled on 8 November.

* The leadership of some of the major important committees in Majlis like the National Security Committee, Committee on National Security Forces and Public Accounts Committee have been taken over by the MDP.

What has changed the situation, is certainly the decision of the present incumbent President Waheed who decided not only to withdraw his candidacy, but also following it up with his decision not to continue with his position after November 11, as laid down in the constitution. It is up to the Supreme Court to ensure that elections do take place on November 9.

The Election Commission of Maldives has called upon all friends of democracy to help deliver a free, fair, transparent and inclusive presidential election as scheduled on 9 November. Instead, he should have called upon the three candidates and the Supreme Court to do so!