Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has urged the security forces to stop the electoral body from holding parliamentary by-elections in six constituencies, a move he contended would be in defiance of an ambiguous Supreme Court decision.
Speaking at a rally of the four-party opposition coalition Monday night, Gayoom said the Elections Commission was acting in contravention of the court’s ruling on the disputed status of four former ruling party lawmakers who were deemed to have lost their seats for crossing the floor.
“I completely agree with what lawyer Mahfooz Saeed said. The security forces have to stop them,” he said.
“We have to arrest those who are breaking the laws if they do not comply after being advised. We cannot administer justice in the country without doing so.”
The EC called the elections shortly after the apex court ruled Sunday night that there was no room to adjudicate cases filed by the four MPs with reference to article 74 of the constitution, which requires the court to determine “any question concerning the qualifications or removal or vacating of seats”.
The opposition insisted that the ruling meant there was no dispute to resolve. The court was clear that MPs who left or were expelled from their parties before its July 13 anti-defection ruling were safe, lawyers said.
But the EC said it resumed preparations for the polls because the Supreme Court did not overturn its decision to consider the seats vacant.
The five-member commission, which has been at loggerheads with the opposition, said it put plans for the by-elections on hold after the court accepted appeals from the four lawmakers, drawing accusations of risking contempt of court to do the government’s bidding.
The opposition coalition had also condemned alleged attempts by the attorney general to unduly influence the Supreme Court and “obstruct justice.” Citing sources in the judiciary, former President Mohamed Nasheed alleged last week that the chief justice was facing intimidation from the government.
Local media meanwhile reported that Attorney General Mohamed Anil was spotted after a “secret midnight meeting” at the court two days before the decision was handed down.
Anil had sought the anti-defection ruling after the opposition secured the backing of a majority of MPs to remove the speaker. The no-confidence motion was contentiously dismissed following the EC’s disqualification of the four lawmakers.
Anil was unavailable for comment.
The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives meanwhile contends that the EC’s disqualification of the lawmakers stands because the Supreme Court did not invalidate the decision as requested by the four MPs.
At a ruling coalition rally that also took place Monday night, MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, the PPM’s deputy leader, declared that the party would win the upcoming by-elections and prove the public support for President Abdulla Yameen.
Other PPM MPs praised the Supreme Court justices and welcomed the ruling as a victory for the government.
Aside from MPs Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim (Thulusdhoo constituency), Mohamed Ameeth (Madduvari constituency), Saud Hussain (Villigili constituency) and Abdul Latheef Mohamed (Dhidhdhoo constituency), who challenged their disqualification, the EC is also preparing for by-elections in the Machchangoalhi South constituency in Malé and the Dhagethi constituency in Alif Dhaal atoll.
MPs Abdulla Sinan and Ilham Ahmed were also deemed to have lost their seats by the EC following their expulsion from the PPM. The MPs, however, maintain that they had left the party after backing the speaker’s impeachment.
Of the six constituencies, the opposition coalition had won a majority of votes in five at the May 6 local council elections. The PPM’s candidate for the atoll council won the Thulusdhoo constitutency seat with over 70 percent of the vote.
Gayoom, who formed a broad coalition with opposition leaders in March, meanwhile went on to stress the importance of public activism and engagement.
“It is not enough for us to just elect a president. Simply voting for your choice of candidate for the parliament is not enough either. We can’t just be at home sleeping afterwards. We have to be alert, looking at what these elected officials are doing,” he said.
“We have to see how they are working and make them do the right thing. We lack that and it’s a big problem. We don’t see that from our people.”
Politicians and party leaders alone cannot set the country back on the right path, he continued.
“The problem is we are not doing what we are supposed to do. So they are doing whatever they want to do. For example, we did not elect members of the parliament to make them rich. They are there to serve the people. But the truth is most of the lawmakers are very rich and involved in so many businesses,” he said.