The European Union’s Foreign Affairs Representative, Catherine Ashton, has expressed concern over the Presidential election underway in the Maldives.
The second round of voting in the Presidential election was delayed by a Supreme Court ruling which added an extra six days to the run-off vote, just hours before polling was set to begin. The election is the third in three months to have been delayed or aborted after complaints from opponents of the former President Mohamed Nasheed.
On 10th November 2013, following the Supreme Court ruling, the current President Mohamed Waheed announced that he would extend his own term by five days. Rather than stepping down at 12am on 11th November, President Waheed announced he would stay in office until the new President is sworn in on Saturday 16th November.
In a statement, Ms Ashton hit a cautious note:
The EU notes that, on 9 November, Maldivians voted in high numbers in the repeated first round of Presidential elections, reflecting their desire to exercise their democratic rights and their trust in the Elections Commission. As in September, the first round was conducted in a professional and impartial way.
The EU notes that a second round is now scheduled for Saturday 16 November, but in circumstances not foreseen in the Constitution.
The EU considers that any attempt to further delay or otherwise influence the outcome of the elections could only be intended to prevent the people of the Maldives from exercising their democratic right to choose their next president.
The EU underlines that neither continuing uncertainty nor a drift towards autocratic rule would be acceptable to the EU and that it is therefore ready to consider appropriate measures should the poll on 16 November not bring the electoral process to a successful conclusion.
On Friday 15th November 2013, the current President, Mohamed Waheed, made a statement thanking the people of the Maldives for his time in government and defending the constitutional process. His office reported:
“The country was under a position where it could be forced, by changing the Constitution, to do things that its legal framework didn’t allow. The government and senior leadership were being asked to resign within few hours, to flout the orders of court, and to stand against those orders,” said the President.
However, he continued, the government refused to bow down to foreign pressure, but instead upheld the legal framework and the orders of the constitutional institutions of the country.
The President said that the country’s institutions might not be perfect and might not function as perfectly as in advanced democracies. However, undermining them would not improve them but destroy them.
The final result of the Maldives Presidential election will be announced on Saturday 16th November 2013 and a new leader sworn in.