Cites Supreme Court ruling; President proposes rescheduling it to October 26
Acting on a mandate from the Maldivian National Security Council headed by President Mohamed Waheed, the police prevented the country’s re-scheduled presidential elections from going ahead on Saturday.
Mr. Waheed, in an interview to The Hindu, proposed next Saturday (October 26) as the new election date. He said he had already spoken to the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court would not take a serious view of the fact that the elections were not held by October 20, the day it had stipulated as the outer limit for the polls to be held.
Late on Friday night an attempt was made to put off the elections via the court. But the Supreme Court declined to hear petitions from the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhooree Party (JP) on a technicality — to hear a poll related petition, all seven judges of the SC should be on the Bench. One judge was abroad, Mr. Waheed said.
An all-party meeting convened by the Maldives Elections Commission (ECM) on Friday night ended in a stalemate with PPM and JP insisting they needed more time to study the voters list. That political parties have to endorse the electoral roll was one of the many guidelines issued by the Supreme Court while rescheduling the first round of the election. Only the Maldivian Democratic Party endorsed the voters list, though it had some reservations.
Since the Supreme Court did not postpone the polls, ECM chairperson Fuwad Thoufeeq said early on Saturday morning that polling would go ahead as scheduled. But the police swooped in on the ECM headquarters soon and did not allow any movement of personnel. Mr. Thoufeeq was forced to announce a postponement of the polls.
The ECM has made it clear that it will require at least three weeks of preparations ahead of another election. All citizens turning 18 on election day are eligible to vote in Maldives, and this requires additions to the voter’s list.
The young democracy, which elected its first President in a multi-party election in 2008, has been at a standstill ever since MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed resigned as President on February 7, 2012 and his Vice-President Mr. Waheed taking over.
The first round of the election held on September 7 saw Mr. Nasheed leading with more than 45 per cent of the vote. As no candidate won the required above-50-per-cent, a second round was scheduled for September 28. However, the Supreme Court annulled the first round, agreeing with a losing candidate, Qasim Ibrahim, that the polls had not been free and fair, despite over a 100 international observers certifying that the process was transparent and devoid of major issues.
India has expressed deep “disappointment” and representatives of United Nations met Mr. Waheed to convey their displeasure. The European Union is considering “serious action” over the repeated delay in completing the poll process. The three Indian former Chief Election Commissioners, J.M. Lyngdoh, N. Gopalaswami and B.B.Tandon, who were invited here as observers, are heading back to India.
‘Willing to wait’
While PPM and JP supporters said the postponement was the right thing to do since they had still not verified the voters list, supporters of the MDP appeared crestfallen. A few supporters this correspondent spoke to said that an election cannot be put off for ever. “They have to hold an election sometime, right?” asked Adam Maniku, former Minister. “We are willing to wait. And when it is held, we will win,” he added.