President Abdulla Yameen’s faction of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives has asked the civil court to delay the upcoming local council elections, citing its inability to prepare after a leadership dispute left the party in disarray.
The PPM said that the party’s database, membership registry, and other important documents are missing, and that it would face “irreparable damage” if the polls take place as scheduled on January 14, according to the case summary.
The civil court was asked to order the election commission to delay the election by two months. The case was filed on November 16 and a hearing has been scheduled for 3pm Monday.
However, the decentralisation law requires new councils to be elected 30 days before the current three-year term expires on February 26.
But the PPM asked the court to issue the order “with reference to a state of necessity,” a principle previously invoked by the supreme court to legitimise former President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s continuation in office after the end of the presidential term on November 11, 2013.
The PPM remains deeply divided after the civil court controversially stripped former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of his powers as the party’s elected leader and handed over control to the incumbent president, splitting the party into rival factions led by the half-brothers.
A re-registration deadline for voters who wish to vote out of their native island is meanwhile due to expire tomorrow.
Ahmed Akram, a commission member, told the Maldives Independent that the commission’s national advisory committee will discuss whether to extend the deadline for re-registration.
The commission had already pushed back the deadline for submitting candidacy papers to December 1, a two-week extension described by the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party as “a favour to President Yameen” as the PPM is yet to hold primaries or choose candidates.
MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz told the Maldives Independent that commission members had acknowledged that the deadline was extended at the PPM’s request.
Despite questioning the electoral body’s independence and ability to conduct free and fair polls, the MDP has urged the public to vote for opposition candidates to send a message to the government.
The Maldives United Opposition, an MDP-led coalition comprised of the Adhaalath Party and Yameen’s former allies, is planning to officially launch its campaign with a rally in Addu City next Friday.
The MDP is also the only party to have held primaries so far. Its ally, the Adhaalath Party, which was allocated some 50 of the 653 posts, said it did not have to hold primaries to select its candidates.
The Yameen faction previously said it was accepting applications from interested candidates until November 21.
MP Abdulla Khaleel, the Yameen faction’s secretary-general, said they plan to vet applicants and hold primaries only in constituencies where there are more than two applicants who meet specific criteria.
Candidates representing Yameen’s faction will face off against candidates fielded by the united opposition coalition as well as the rival PPM faction.
Abdul Aleem, secretary-general of the Gayoom faction, told the Maldives Independent that candidates endorsed by the PPM leader will contest both as independents and on the party’s ticket.