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Elections Commission threatens to dissolve MDP

The main opposition party was warned not to conduct its presidential primary as planned on May 30 with former president Mohamed Nasheed as the sole candidate.



The Elections Commission has threatened to dissolve the Maldivian Democratic Party if its presidential primary is conducted with former president Mohamed Nasheed as a candidate.

The exiled opposition leader is ineligible to contest due to a 13-year prison sentence, EC president Ahmed Shareef told the main opposition party in a letter Tuesday.

Branding a primary with Nasheed as unlawful, the EC threatened to take action against the MDP under the Political Party Act, which authorises it to impose fines or seek a High Court order to disband the party.

“As Mohamed Nasheed is serving a jail sentence under the anti-terrorism law, he has lost the right to participate in political activity for that period. We inform you that the commission will not accept a presidential primary with a such a person,” reads the letter.

The prisons and parole law also prohibits convicts from holding high-level or leadership posts in political parties, the EC noted.

The warning comes with Nasheed’s campaign for the May 30 nationwide primary in full swing. Teams of volunteers have been campaigning in the atolls as the 51-year-old meets with supporters via video conference.

MDP deputy chairman Ali Niyaz previously told the Maldives Independent that the primary will “definitely go ahead” as planned next week. The party has since announced longer voting hours and plans to set up polling stations in resorts.

Some 30,000 members are eligible to vote.

The EC has been under fire after an announcement earlier this week of guidelines for conducting primaries that implicitly rejected the candidacies of convicted opposition leaders.

The joint opposition called the five-member commission “hopelessly politicised” and “little more than a mouthpiece for President [Abdulla] Yameen.”

Only the full bench of the Supreme Court has the constitutional authority to resolve disputes concerning the eligibility of presidential candidates, it stressed.

Nasheed insists he can contest because the Supreme Court quashed his conviction in a landmark ruling by the full bench on February 1.

Yameen reacted by declaring a state of emergency and arresting Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Justice Ali Hameed, after which the three remaining justices rescinded the order.

In April, the government rejected the UN Human Rights Committee’s ruling to restore Nasheed’s right to run for office.

The EC’s new president Shareef is a loyalist of President Yameen who was involved in his re-election campaign before his appointment to the independent electoral body in March.

In a video message to supporters Tuesday, Nasheed reiterated that it was up to MDP members to secure his candidacy.

“When MDP members go forward with one mind, one spirit, one zeal and united together, in my view the Elections Commission will have to back down,” he said.

He also appealed for help from the police and military to conduct free, fair and inclusive presidential elections this year.

The Maldives constitution requires presidential candidates to “not have been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term of more than twelve months, unless a period of three years has elapsed since his release, or pardon for the offence for which he was sentenced.”

Aside from Nasheed, exiled Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim is also ineligible both due to a bribery conviction and constitutional age limits.

Yameen narrowly won the 2013 polls in a run-off against Nasheed after forming a short-lived coalition with Gasim.