Maldives Supreme Court Disallows Former President’s Election Eligibility Case
Supreme Court’s Decision to Dismiss Yameen’s Case
The Supreme Court of Maldives has dismissed a constitutional case brought forth by the defence team of former President Abdulla Yameen. The aim of the case was to ensure Yameen’s eligibility to participate in the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for September 9. Yameen’s team expressed concerns that delays in his appeal case at the first appellate court were infringing upon several of his rights.
Currently, Yameen is serving an 11-year prison sentence for money laundering and graft convictions related to the Vaavu atoll Aarah lease. This conviction makes him ineligible to contest in the upcoming elections.
Judicature Act Cited as Reason for Rejection
The Supreme Court’s Registrar referred to the Maldives’ Judicature Act as the basis for rejecting the case. The Registrar stated that although the case was submitted as a constitutional issue, it did not meet the necessary criteria to be accepted as such. However, this does not bar Yameen’s defence team from appealing the decision before the Supreme Court judges.
Delays in Yameen’s High Court Appeal Trial
With Yameen’s criminal conviction hindering his eligibility to be a candidate in the elections, the only way for him to become eligible is through a successful acquittal in his High Court appeal trial. However, one of the presiding judges in Yameen’s appeal case is currently on leave, causing further delays in the proceedings.
Elections Commission’s Candidate Nomination Window
The Elections Commission has announced that the nomination window for candidates is open from July 23 to August 7. This timeline limits Yameen’s chances of nominating for the elections, considering the existing delays in his appeal trial.
International Community’s Call for Upholding Rule of Law
The United States, along with other members of the international community, has called on President Yameen and the Government of Maldives to uphold the rule of law, respect constitutionally-guaranteed legal protections and rights of all Maldivians, and permit the full and proper functioning of the Parliament and judiciary. They also urged the Maldivian government to release political prisoners, ensure that parties and candidates can campaign freely, and take necessary measures to restore the credibility of the electoral process and create conditions for genuinely free and fair presidential elections.
Previous Supreme Court Decisions on Elections
Historically, the Maldives’ top court has upheld the integrity of the electoral process. The five-member Supreme Court dismissed a petition from the outgoing president seeking an annulment of last month’s presidential election results, ruling that the election was conducted within the law.
The Election Commission declared opposition alliance candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih the winner of the Sept. 23 election against President Yameen Abdul Gayoom. The court’s decision was unanimous, affirming the legitimacy of the electoral process.
Maldives’ Journey Towards Democracy
The Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago known for its luxury resorts, transitioned to a multiparty democracy in 2008 after decades of autocratic rule. However, the journey towards democracy has been fraught with challenges, including allegations of rollbacks on democratic gains under Yameen’s administration.
The Maldivian Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, was chosen after exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed abandoned plans to run due to a past criminal conviction that made him ineligible. Nasheed’s 13-year sentence, widely criticized as politically motivated, was ordered to be retried by the Supreme Court earlier this year, but the government did not implement the ruling.
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