24 May 2018, MALE: The Maldivian Democratic Party strongly condemns recent attempts by the Elections Commission of the Maldives to intimidate the party by threatening to take action against MDP, including dissolving the party entirely. The Elections Commission issued these threats in a letter to the MDP on 21 May, declaring that former President Nasheed’s candidacy in the upcoming MDP presidential primaries scheduled for 30 June, as unlawful and warranted strict measures from the Commission.
MDP finds the Elections Commission’s behaviour deeply reprehensible, as well as completely unlawful. According to the Maldives Constitution, any issues regarding candidacies in presidential elections must be resolved by the full bench of the Supreme Court. Furthermore, political parties act gives parties full autonomy over internal elections and does not give any power to the elections commission to act in this manner.
On 1 February, the full bench of the Supreme Court quashed the conviction following a deeply flawed trial process against President Nasheed, enabling him to contest in the presidential elections. Moreover, in April, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) stated that the judicial proceedings in which President Nasheed was convicted were based on vague legislation, contained serious flaws, and violated his right to a fair trial. The HRC ordered the Maldives government to free President Nasheed and restore his political rights, including the right to seek public office. As a party to the ICCPR, the Maldives is required under international law to adhere to the HRC’s ruling.
President Yameen responded to these developments by sending in masked soldiers to break into the Supreme Court and abduct the Chief Justice. Another Supreme Court Justice was also abducted, and both remain in detention. The three remaining justices sit on an incomplete bench, under the implicit threat of arrest if they rule against President Yameen’s wishes.
The party notes that the credibility of Elections Commission is highly dubious. The newly appointed Elections Commissioner, Shareef, is the former Secretary-General of the People’s Alliance, President Yameen’s previous political party. In local council elections in 2016, Shareef abused his position as head of the state-run Fenaka Corporation to offer jobs to opposition candidates who withdraw their names from the ballot paper, in order to favour ruling party candidates. He has been openly engaged in PPM campaigns in the past year. None of these developments augur well for the upcoming presidential elections.
As the biggest political party in the Maldives, with over 50,000 members – in a country of 450,000 people – the MDP rejects the Elections Commission’s interference with the party’s democratic, primary process. MDP calls on the Commission to cease immediately its attempts to intimidate political parties, and to restore functions of an independent institution free of political influence and bias, and ensure free, fair and inclusive Presidential elections.