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Row escalates between Maldives ruling party and elections body

The PPM has been fined US$4,860 for accusing Elections Commissioners of bribery and vote rigging.



The Elections Commission has slapped an MVR75,000 (US$4,860) fine on the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives.

The PPM was penalised for bringing the commission into disrepute with false allegations of bribery and electoral fraud, EC chief Ahmed Shareef told the press Monday morning.

The EC’s five members made the decision after the Supreme Court ruled Sunday that there was no evidence to substantiate allegations of vote rigging.

The ruling has vindicated the EC’s stand that the PPM’s allegations were “baseless and untrue,” Shareef said, repeatedly stating that the commission did not provide any “undue advantage” to either candidate.

A day after official results were announced, the PPM launched protests alleging undue influence over the independent electoral body, as President Abdulla Yameen claimed he should have got more than 96,000 votes (42 percent).

Yameen petitioned the apex court to annul the September 23 election despite initially conceding defeat.

The PPM was previously warned of measures if it failed to stop questioning the commission’s integrity at the nightly demonstrations, Shareef noted.

The EC also announced it does not recognise the party’s new leadership, citing its previous refusal to endorse decisions made at the PPM congress last month.

EC member Ahmed Akram said the PPM failed to comply with its charter or governing statutes. There were 42 delegates who were not registered PPM members, including those who were elected to leadership posts, he said.

Decisions made at the PPM’s extraordinary congress included appointing Yameen as the party’s leader, electing four deputy leaders, and expanding the executive council.

It was widely seen as a move to avert a challenge by former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – the PPM’s founder who was elected as the party’s leader at the last congress in 2013 – to reclaim leadership.

Shareef said the EC has decided not to accept requests to remove MPs from the PPM’s membership registry – which would disqualify lawmakers due to an anti-defection law – until the civil court settles the long-running dispute over the party’s leadership.

Gayoom – who was released from prison after the president’s election defeat – was expelled from the PPM last year after a leadership dispute with his half-brother Yameen.

The former strongman has petitioned the civil court to declare his expulsion was illegal and unfair.

Shareef said the EC has also decided to review Gayoom’s removal from PPM registry.

The PPM was split into rival factions when Gayoom was stripped of his leadership role by the civil court, which ordered Yameen – who previously held a ceremonial role as the party’s chief advisor – to resume council meetings under his leadership.

The council promptly put the president in charge of the party.

But Gayoom disputes the legitimacy of the Yameen-led council, insisting he remains the PPM’s leader.

The 82-year-old went on to join forces with opposition parties to form the broad coalition that defeated Yameen at the polls.