Presidential run-off in Maldives postponed

Shamsuddin Ahmed

The run-off of presidential race in Maldives scheduled for September 28 has been postponed by the Supreme Court upon a petition of vote rigging in September 7 polls that showed ousted president Mohammed Nasheed bagged 45 percent votes but short of majority. The court ordered the government to postpone the elections until disposal of the petition and directed the Election Commission to submit the voter’s registry for inspection that allegedly contained the names of dead, underage and people that do not exist.

The court action has further widened the political dispute and unrest, the seeds of which were sowed ever since the tiny Maldives on the Indian Ocean began its journey to democracy with the first democratic election in 2008. President Mohammed Nasheed, a favourite of India, had been ousted within two years by police-army mutiny backed by popular movement, accusing him of compromising national interest and attempting to promote secularism in the Islamic State where non-Muslims are barred from citizenship. Now Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has launched countrywide protest against postponement of final round of elections. He termed the judiciary as biased, claimed the postponement as unconstitutional, demanding that the Election Commission to ignore the court order and hold the election as scheduled.

Minivan News has quoted MDP statement as saying: “In complete defiance of the constitution this act by a discredited court is a betrayal of democracy and will of the people…The court ruling is a cynical attempt of Nasheed’s opponents to delay an election they feared of losing.”
The September 7 vote finished without a clear winner, with Gashim Ibrahim of Jumhooree Coalition coming out third, narrowly missing a place in the run-off. Mohamed Nasheed won more than 45 percent of the vote but needed more than 50 percent to avoid the run-off against Abdullah Yameen of Progressive Party and half-brother of the former ruler Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Jumhooree coalition filed the case against the Election Commission seeking annulment of results. The petition claimed that the voter’s registry contained the names of fake voters.
EC database hacked
Nasheed’s supporters were protesting and holding demonstrations against the court order in the capital Male creating disorder and fanning up unrest across the country. They blamed the opponents of Nasheed for exerting undue influence on the judiciary. But political parties opposed to MDP smelt rat behind the unruly demonstrations.
Ibrahim Khaleel, spokesperson of Jumhooree coalition has told a press meet that foreigners were allowed in the Election Commission to rig votes. He claimed that they detected the country from where the hackers have hacked the database of Election Commission. He did not name the country, but pointed a finger at India. “I do not know who the multitudes of people who are said to have voted came from. At some polling stations they outnumbered the voters who cast fake votes.”
An AFP report carried by Minivian News on September 24 said India continues to be by far the biggest foreign influence in Maldives, but its uncontested hegemony has waned recently ­as has been the case in other historically pro-India neighbours Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal.
Refuting the MDP allegation Progressive Party of Abdullah Yameen said there was nothing unconstitutional in the court action of postponing the run-off. Religious civil society groups and conservative Salaf group protested the alleged rigging in the polls and criticized Nasheed for creating unrest in the country.
Umar Naseer of Jumhooree Party said all political parties would unite against Nasheed in the run-off and defeat him. If he comes to power with the help of his alien masters he would be brought down in the same way his government had been toppled on February 7, 2011.
Nasheed has been visiting political leaders to buy support in the run-off. But political polarization would not be clear before the court verdict in the polls rigging case. It may not be surprising if the Supreme Court squash the results of September 7 elections requiring fresh polls. The court showed rigid attitude by expelling the defence counsel (of the Election Commission) from the court on charge of contempt during the hearing of the case.
Source: Weekly Holiday

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