The newly minted Elections Commission chief on Tuesday insisted he can be non-partisan despite a political background as a loyalist of President Abdulla Yameen.
At a rare EC press conference called after Shareef’s new colleagues voted to make him president of the five-member electoral body, the former utility boss was asked whether he could work independently and stay neutral.
“I guarantee to the Maldivian people that in my work in the Elections Commission I will not be influenced by a previous professional responsibility I had or by my previous political views,” he responded, telling reporters he was hoping for the question.
The EC’s independence should be measured by its adherence to laws and legal processes, he said.
Parliament endorsed Shareef’s appointment Tuesday morning, two days after the president nominated him to the vacant post. The move followed speculation prompted by former EC President Ahmed Sulaiman’s resignation in January that Shareef would replace him ahead of this year’s presidential polls.
With only ruling coalition lawmakers present, Shareef was approved with 33 votes from the 85-member house. Breaking with the party whip line, Thulhaadhoo MP Nazim Rashad cast the sole dissenting vote.
Opposition lawmakers continue to boycott parliament sittings in protest against the ongoing state of emergency and the disputed status of 12 former ruling party MPs.
The president’s spokesman tweeted photographs from Shareef’s appointment shortly after the parliament vote. Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla administered the oath of office during a swearing-in ceremony at the president’s office.
“We have no trust in his independence,” MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, spokesman of the Maldivian Democratic Party, said after Shareef’s nomination on Sunday.
Former EC president Fuwad Thowfeek told the Maldives Independent that Shareef was not an appropriate choice for any independent body.
“But if President Yameen wants to keep someone who will be ready to obey his orders without any respect to the constitution and laws of this country, Shareef may be his choice as he will not hesitate to do any dirty thing asked by his master,” he said.
“It is another evidence that still President Yameen does not want to do anything for the betterment of our institutions.”
A former school principal and deputy minister of education, Shareef previously served as secretary-general of the People’s Alliance party led by Yameen and MP for the Thimarafushi constituency after winning a by-election in 2013.
This article was updated at 4:30 pm after the Elections Commission’s press conference.