A re-run of the first round of polls must be held on October 20, the court says

The Maldives Supreme Court, in a midnight ruling, has annulled the results of the first round elections of September 7, in which Maldivian Democratic Party candidate, Mohamed Nasheed, stood first with over 45.45 per cent of the popular vote, and the Progressive Party of Maldives candidate Abdulla Yaameen was placed a distant second.

“A re-run of the first round of polls must be held on October 20, the Supreme Court has ordered,” a senior government official told The Hindu from the Maldivian capital, Male.

The verdict was based on a case filed by Qasim Ibrahim, a resort tycoon, who had been eliminated in the first round of polls. He had contended that the first round was not free and fair. Members of his party, and those of the other opposition, had told many members of the international press that the elections were rigged scientifically. Asked for proof, nothing was forthcoming.

All observers during the polls, including local NGO Transparency Maldives, the Indian Election Observer’s team lead by the former CEC, J.M.Lyngdoh, the Commonwealth observers team, the European Union team, and a team from the United States had praised the conduct of polls.

India had earlier 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 had said.

The conduct of the case at the Supreme Court had left much to be desired. The JP produced witnesses in the court to attest to “corruption and electoral malpractices.” These witnesses were kept in a different room and their identity was not revealed. Only their voice was heard by people in the court room. Request to divulge their names was refused. Also details of where they voted, or whether they were not allowed to vote were not given.