Male, October 19: The Maldivian Police prevented the re-scheduled presidential elections from going ahead on Saturday, plunging the country into anarchy.
Police acted claiming that Supreme Court guidelines were not adhered to. Late on Friday night an attempt was made to put off the elections via the Court; but the Supreme Court refused to hear petitions from the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhooree Party (JP).
An all party meeting convened by the Maldives Elections Commission (ECM) on Friday night ended in a stalemate with two parties, the PPM and the JP, insisting that they needed more time to study the voters list ahead of giving their consent. Political parties have to endorse the electoral roll, according to one of the many guidelines issued by the Supreme Court. 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 will go ahead as scheduled. But the police swooped on the ECM headquarters on Saturday morning, 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 ahead of scheduling 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 Mohamed Nasheed resigned as President on February 7, 2012. Crisis after crisis has engulfed the nation, as democratic institutions began a bizarre competition, and highly destructive to assert supremacy.
President Mohamed Waheed’s term ends on November 11, and the Maldivian Constitution does not cater to a possibility of a new President not being elected till then. As per the original schedule, the first round was slated — and held — on September 7. MDP’s Mohamed Nasheed led the field in this round, winning more than 45 per cent of the vote. A candidate needs a clear 50 per cent plus one vote to be declared a winner. A second round was to be held on September 28. The Supreme Court annulled the 7 September polls, agreeing with a losing candidate, Qasim Ibrahim, that the polls were not free and fair, despite over a 100 international observers certifying that the process was transparent and devoid of major issues.
All eyes are now focussed on the Supreme Court. It had earlier ordered that a first round should be held by October 20. It will have to revisit the verdict.
‘Willing to wait’
While PPM and JP supporters said that this was the right thing to do since they had still not verified the voters list, supporters of the MDP appeared crest fallen. A few supporters, this correspondent spoke to, said that an election cannot be put off forever. “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 confidently.
“We have seen brutality for a long time. But we will not resort to violence,” said cartoonist and MDP supporter, Ahmed Abbas. “When Nasheed, me and three others sat on protest in 2007, we did not think one day there will be democracy in Maldives. We did not think we will get close to one lakh votes in 2013 [He was referring to the votes MDP got in the first round of polls in September],” he added.
“We cannot be stopped,” he declared. “We will prevail. The people will win, regardless of however long the struggle takes.”