Voters in the Indian Ocean atoll nation cast their ballots on Saturday, despite concerns that the country’s elections commission was understaffed and unable to carry out the ballot properly. An ally of President Abdulla Yameen had petitioned the Maldives’ Supreme Court to delay the parliamentary polls. But with no decision made by the judges, the election continued as scheduled on Saturday. The court had sacked Election Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek and slapped him with a suspended six-month jail sentence for contempt of court. His deputy, Ahmed Fayaz, was also fired but avoided jail time.
The Maldives Supreme Court has given all four election commissioners six-month jail sentences, suspended for three years, for “disobeying orders”. The head of the commission and his deputy have also been sacked. The BBC’s Charles Haviland in Colombo says the ruling comes at an awkward time as the commission is supposed to be preparing for parliamentary elections in less than two weeks. Former President Mohamed Nasheed has called for protests against the ruling. The four election commission members were brought to trial under new rules that allow the Supreme Court to initiate proceedings, prosecute and pass judgement. The judges said they had disrespected the court by not following election guidelines.
The Maldives’ newly-elected President Abdulla Yameen pledged Sunday to end two years of political turmoil that have brought violent protests to the popular high-end tourist destination, as he was sworn in after defeating the favorite Mohamed Nasheed in a runoff. The win was a victory for the political old guard, who rallied around Yameen to defeat Nasheed – who was the Maldives’ first democratically elected leader, and was forced to resign last year in what he said was a coup. The election was the fourth attempt to choose a new president after three earlier ballots were either canceled or delayed, adding to tension between the rival political groups and drawing international condemnation. Yameen won 51.4 percent of the votes in Saturday’s ballot, in which 91 percent of the 240,000-strong electorate took part. “Rising out of political turmoil and establishing peace is a big responsibility as Maldives’ president and head of state,” Yameen said in his inaugural speech, after he was sworn in at a special session of parliament.
The Supreme Court in the Maldives has suspended a presidential election run-off, after protests from a candidate. On Saturday, ex-President Mohamed Nasheed polled nearly 47%, just short of the 50% needed for outright victory. The second round was to have taken place on Sunday, but the runner-up Abdulla Yameen sought a delay, saying he needed time to campaign afresh. Mr Nasheed has been seeking to regain power after he was forced to resign in 2012, sparking a political crisis. This is the third time the presidential elections have been derailed. A vote on 7 September was annulled by the Supreme Court after one candidate, Gasim Ibrahim, alleged irregularities, despite observer groups deeming the vote free and fair. The court also introduced new guidelines for elections.
Even as the rest of the world and Maldivians too had almost given up the country as on the brink of a political and leadership chaos, it has bounced back with the kind of verve and nerve that democracy entails at birth. The three presidential candidates met in what was not an entirely unexpected turn, and declared their intention to try and complete the poll process in time for an elected President to assume office on 11 November, the D-day under the constitutional scheme and national tradition. Meeting on Sunday night, former President Mohammed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and his rivals, Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Gasim Ibrahim (Jumhooree Party, JP) unanimously decided to approach the Election Commission (EC) for advancing the poll-dates. If their combined effort next morning when the met the EC officials did not fructify, it owed to the existing electoral scheme – or, so it would seem.