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Last Ditch Attempt by President Yameen to Stay in Power?

Published Oct 16, 2018
Updated Jul 01, 2020

The Supreme Court of the Maldives which is packed with loyalists of incumbent President Abdullah Yameen is hearing a petition challenging the verdict in which he lost to opposition leader Ibrahim Solih by a record margin of 38,653 votes.

While Mr Yameen had accepted the verdict a couple of days after the 23 September elections, he is now having second thoughts and has gone to courts bringing in obscure observations made along with some secret witnesses which are being examined by the Court in camera.

All this is happening even as President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s transition committee has begun visiting Maldives embassies of foreign missions. The transition committee is tasked with ensuring a smooth transfer of power for president-elect Solih’s administration as per Rajje TV.

The secret witnesses ostensibly have confessed to an alleged conspiracy with Elections Commission chief Ahmed Shareef to commit voter fraud as per the Maldives Independent. Chief Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi has scheduled the Final hearing for 10:30 am ( 16 October). During the four-hour hearing on 15 October, the president’s lawyer Abbas Shareef argued the three witnesses could face serious threats if their identities were revealed says Maldives Independent.

 The Elections Commission’s lawyer Hussain Shameem objected to allowing secret witnesses in a case that affects the rights of a majority of Maldivians. Hisaan Hassan, the joint opposition’s lawyer, noted the lack of precedent in a constitutional matter.

The president’s case is said to be built on alleged tampering with the ballot paper to include the following as per Maldives Independent.

M7 Print won the bid to print ballot papers despite proposing a much higher price than competitor Novelty Printer

M7 board of directors include a Jumhooree Party member and two children of JP leader Gasim Ibrahim

M7’s printing machine lacked automatic audit features to prevent printing of additional ballot papers

The ballot papers were stored in a room at the elections centre without sufficient security

    A chemical was applied to make the tick or checkmark disappear in the square next to candidate number one that is President Yameen.

    A checkmark was pre-printed in candidate number two’s square and hidden with a special mineral layer. The hidden checkmark reappears when “heat pressure such as folding the paper is applied.”

Elections official used a ring with a pen to mark blank ballot papers while unfolding and stacking ballots

The national complaints bureau was abruptly changed to the Dharubaaruge convention centre in Malé, which made it difficult to submit complaints as there were no arrangements to accept complaints via phone or fax

    The Elections Commission returned several complaints forwarded by the Bureau

    UV light was not used at some polling stations to verify ballot papers

The number of ballot papers was not announced at some polling stations before voting began

    There were 25 additional ballots in a box in Hulhumalé

Ballot papers were taken out of some polling stations, and fake ballots were slipped into boxes

There was no secrecy or privacy due to the way voting booths were set up in some polling stations

Some security envelops with ballot papers were not sealed when they were brought to the election centre in the capital

    There were illegal campaigning and bribery in some voting queues

    Unauthorised items such as handbags were taken into polling stations

    The president’s lawyer Mohamed Saleem also alleged foreign involvement in tampering with ballot papers, which he said should be investigated by the security forces implying India and the United States amongst others as per Maldives Independent.

Anticipating trouble ahead given the Machiavellian moves of the President in the Past who has used the Supreme Court and the Police to marginalise the opposition leaders, US State Department cautioned against any attempt to derail the election process. “The US and our partners view with great concern any attempt to undermine the democratic process. It is critical that the will of the Maldivian people be respected and upheld,” a state department spokesperson was quoted as saying.     “We noted before the election the US would consider appropriate measures against any individuals who undermined democracy, the rule of law, and a free and fair electoral process in the Maldives,” the statement added.

India has issued a statement commending conduct of the elections and is hoping for a smooth transfer of power. China, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan who are seen as supporters of the Yameen regime have also issued statements or congratulated Ibrahim Solih, the election winner.

Now, much will depend on the Supreme Court if it concedes to so-called, “secret,” evidence presented by the President’s lawyers of a conspiracy by the Elections Commission with the opposition to annul the election process.