The Adhaalath Party has said it will boycott the upcoming local council elections, condemning the elections commission’s decision to postpone the vote as “an excuse to handover seats to specific individuals”.
The religious conservative party had planned to contest 50 of the 653 posts up for election.
It accused the elections commission of manipulating the elections and of depriving the Maldivian public of the right to elect their representatives.
Participating in the vote would legitimise an election that has been “unlawfully stolen” from the people, the party said.
The vote was initially scheduled for January 14, but the civil court ordered a two-month delay citing the Progressive Party of the Maldives’ inability to prepare after a leadership dispute threw the ruling party into disarray.
After weeks of mounting pressure, the elections commission set the election date for April 8.
The Adhaalath Party’s boycott meanwhile upsets the Maldives United Opposition’s plan to present a united front against President Abdulla Yameen’s PPM.
The MUO also comprises of the Maldivian Democratic Party and representatives of former senior government officials.
The MDP said Monday that it will participate in the elections, but will challenge at court the elections commission’s call for new candidacy papers.
The PPM, which had not made nominations when an extended deadline for candidacy papers expired on December 1, will now be able to field candidates.
The MDP’s deputy chairperson, Ali Niyaz, contended that the commission’s voiding of some 900 nominations violates the civil court ruling. The court had only ordered a delay, and re-starting all electoral processes amounts to calling for a new election, he argued.
“This is unacceptable. We will be challenging this decision at the court, in defence of the 900 candidates who have had their candidacies annulled unlawfully,” he said Monday.
“We will also legally challenge the election commission’s attempt to manipulate elections.”
The commission’s tactics were aimed at tiring out the opposition, he went on.
“They do not seem to be giving much priority to holding the election. Either they are working on orders or they are incapable of holding an election. This is a test for the new commission,” he said.
The commission was reconstituted in 2014 and the vote to elect local councils is the new members’ first attempt at administering national elections.
Hisaan Hussain, lead legal counsel for the MDP, said the commission’s decision sets a dangerous precedent for Maldivian democracy as it allows the commission to declare candidacies void at any point, even during a presidential election.
The MDP has also alleged that the government is setting the stage to manipulate 2018’s presidential election.