The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has hit back at the Elections Commission’s (EC) condemnation of a resolution adopted by the party’s national council last week backing targeted sanctions against state officials.
The MDP called for targeted sanctions if the government continues to detain President Mohamed Nasheed in defiance of a UN rights panel judgment declaring his imprisonment arbitrary and illegal. The government had called the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s (WGAD) judgment “flawed and premature” and said it “will not be made to act on the basis of a non-binding opinion.”
Condemning the MDP’s resolution “in the harshest terms”, the EC had said in a statement on Thursday that the proposed actions were contrary to article 7 of the Political Parties Act, which prohibits “calls for or encouragement of extreme or harsh actions.”
As the “guardian of political parties”, the commission expressed concern with the resolution challenging the government’s decisions as well as stating that Nasheed’s conviction on a terrorism charge was unlawful.
The EC said the resolution “called for sanctions against senior government officials and government projects through foreign organisations in disregard of Maldivian domestic laws”.
A political party that receives state funding should not be allowed to call for sanctions, the commission said.
The commission appealed to the MDP not to “carry out any actions stated in this resolution” and to refrain from “holding Maldivian courts in contempt”.
The MDP’s resolution came after Nasheed’s high-profile international lawyers launched a campaign lobbying for targeted sanctions, such as travel bans and asset freezes, to be imposed on senior officials of the state.
Responding to the EC, the MDP said yesterday that calling on the government to abide by the UN ruling is a duty of a responsible opposition party as its primary role is holding the government accountable.
The EC’s statement shows that it has been turned into “a commission that serves the government’s political purposes”, the MDP said.
The five-member commission was overhauled last year after the Supreme Court sacked the independent body’s president and vice president and the terms of its former members expired. The apex court’s dismissal of the former EC heads after controversial suo moto proceedings had drawn stringent international criticism.
The opposition contend that the current administration has used its parliamentary majority to stack independent commissions with loyalists.
Criticising the EC’s use of MVR1.6 million (US$100,000) to celebrate “democracy week” this month, the MDP called on the commission to cease its efforts to “intimidate” the country’s largest party, ensure its independence, and stop making “political” statements.