The civil court has ordered the elections commission to postpone January’s local council elections, citing the Progressive Party of the Maldives’ inability to prepare for polls in the wake of a bitter leadership dispute.
The election, scheduled for January 14, is to be delayed by two months.
The elections commission said it will challenge the ruling at the high court.
Judge Ali Abdulla ruled Thursday in favour of President Abdulla Yameen’s faction of the ruling party, which had said its database, membership registry, and other important documents were missing, and that it would face “irreparable damage” if the polls take place as scheduled.
Abdulla said it would be a setback for democracy and damaging to the interests of the state, if the PPM, as the largest political party in the country, were unable to contest the elections.
The verdict was based on precedents set by supreme court in postponing the 2013 presidential polls and the principle of “state of necessity” it had invoked to legitimise former President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s continuation in office after the end of his term on November 11, 2013.
Abdulla also said that the elections commission had failed to clarify what damages it would face if the polls were postponed.
The commission had argued in court that the ruling would allow other election dates to be set back.
The decentralisation law requires new councils to be elected 30 days before the end of their three-year term in February.
The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, which had advocated against the delay in court in a third-party intervention, has called for protests against the move on Friday.
Abdulla, however, said the delay would benefit all political parties and interested candidates as it would afford more time to all to campaign.
Councillors, whose terms were set to expire on February 26, will remain until their successors are elected, he ruled.
The PPM meanwhile remains deeply divided after the civil court controversially stripped former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of his powers as the party’s elected leader and handed over control to the incumbent president, splitting the party into rival factions led by the half-brothers.
The elections commission had already pushed back the deadline for submitting candidacy papers to December 1, a two-week extension described by the MDP as “a favour to Yameen” as the PPM has indefinitely postponed holding primaries.