The high court has rejected a challenge to the elections commission’s decision to open a new call for candidates for the upcoming local council elections.
The appellate court threw out the petition by the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party after its lawyer Anas Abdul Sattar failed to turn up to a hearing on Monday.
Anas, who is also the MDP’s secretary general, is currently in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to attend meetings with the exiled opposition leader, former President Mohamed Nasheed.
Anas was expected to respond to questions raised by the attorney general’s office over the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case.
The MDP petitioned the high court after the elections commission voided some 900 candidacy papers and opened a new call for nominations, a move the opposition claims is aimed at allowing the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives to field candidates.
The PPM had failed to make nominations when an extended deadline expired on December. Days later, the civil court ordered the elections commission to delay the January 14 vote by two months citing the PPM’s inability to prepare amid a leadership dispute.
The elections were re-scheduled for April 8, and the commission re-started all electoral processes. A new date of February 6 was set for the submission of candidacy papers, prompting the MDP to launch a legal challenge.
The party argued that the civil court had ordered the commission to postpone the election, not call for a new election.
Anas said the MDP hopes to re-submit the case on his return to Malé.
When the case began in January, the attorney general’s office, citing elections laws, claimed the MDP must file the complaint with the elections commission’s “complaints handing mechanism” before taking it to the high court.
The court itself questioned its right to hear the case, noting that in some cases it is the supreme court that rules on complaints over candidatures.
In a separate development, the Maldives United Opposition, a coalition between the MDP and the Adhaalath Party, is looking to make use of the new call for candidates to make nominations.
The religious conservative [arty had withdrawn from the election in protest over alleged politicisation of the elections commission. The boycott left the MUO without candidates for some 50 of the 653 council seats.
Adhaalath candidates were then offered the MUO ticket, a spokesman said. A majority accepted the offer, but a handful decided to withdraw saying they wished to respect the party’s decision.
The move has forced MDP to open a call for candidates for slots on the Malé and Addu City councils. A primary may be held if more than one candidate expresses interest, the party said.