On Thursday night, in a special court session after midnight, six out of seven Supreme Court judges ruled that the court’s order to postpone the runoff will stand.

The Maldives Election Commission dared the country’s Supreme Court on Thursday and said it will hold the second round of presidential polls as scheduled on Saturday, but backed down after the court ordered the security forces to implement its order of putting the elections on hold, in a late night order.

“Second round of voting will NOT be conducted on Saturday 28th September in compliance with the order of the Supreme Court,” said President’s spokesperson Masood Imad on twitter.

Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) Mohamed Nasheed and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Yaameen Abdulla were to face off in a runoff on September 28, 2013 after the first round of polls, on September 7, 2013 placed them in first and second positions respectively. The person who was placed third in the polls, Jumhooree Party’s Qasim Ibrahim, approached the court claiming that the polls were not free and fair. All international observers, including a high-level team from India, Commonwealth, the European Union, and the United States, had attested that the elections were free and fair.

Late night court session

On Thursday night, in a special court session after midnight, six out of seven Supreme Court judges ruled that the court’s earlier order of September 23, 2013 to postpone the runoff will stand. The court directed security forces to “stop any individual from disobeying” the postponement.

Elections Commission chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek had said on Thursday that the court had no right to override the constitution. The Maldivian Constitution stipulates that a runoff vote must be held within three weeks of the first round.

Mr. Nasheed, who is confident of winning the runoff, was the only major leader to welcome the decision of the Elections Commission: “We welcome the Elections Commission decision. I ask all parties to respect this decision,” he tweeted. Meanwhile, the opposition appears to have begun a whisper campaign against Mr. Thowfeek.

India disappointed

India expressed its disappointment over the delay in holding the second round. “We are deeply disappointed and distressed that this should have happened. Our understanding of the democratic system is that even if there are imperfections in the election system, those imperfections need to be addressed in a manner which is not destructive of the very process of elections. It won’t be fair of me to comment on a court judgement, it is an interim judgement,” External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said.

“I don’t want to comment on the contents of the judgement but certainly on the implications of the interference with an election. There is a window of time available because they have a November date by which a President has to be installed and I would urge all countries that care for democracy and who have a special cause of Maldives at heart, I would urge them all to use their good offices to ensure that democracy is preserved. If this is being done in the name of democracy, it is unfortunate. I think this is something that undermines democracy. I would certainly hope and expect that better wisdom will prevail in this matter. It is only an interim judgement and I am sure having factored everything in election process will remain uninterrupted and it will proceed to a free and fair second round of election,” he added.