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Supreme Court concludes final hearing on prickly elections case, denying request to allow secret witnesses

17 October 2018, MVT 03:38
17 October 2018, MVT 03:38

Supreme Court, on Tuesday, concluded the final hearing on the case filed by incumbent President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom to nullify the results of the presidential election.

Hinnavaru MP and President-Elect Solih won the electoral race with a total of 134,616 votes, amounting to 58.4 percent of all voters. Incumbent President Yameen had a total of 96,132 votes, which is a percentage of 41.6 from all presidential election voters. This is the first time a presidential candidate was elected with such a sizeable lead.

Lawyers of President Yameen had requested the court to allow statements by 3 secret witnesses to the case in order to prove Chief of Elections Commission (EC) Ahmed Shareef was responsible for the inker rings brought into the country to temper with the ballot papers. However, the request was denied by the Supreme Court.

EC along with intervening party, the opposition coalition had earlier argued that the results of an election are the right of every voting citizen and noted that secret witnesses should not be allowed in a case concerning all citizens.

During the hearing on Tuesday, Chief Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi stated that the five-judge bench unanimously agreed that the case lacked reason to be granted secret witnesses.

After all parties took the last word at court, the justice had announced the end of the hearing.

The chief justice further added that a verdict hearing is to be scheduled soon if all is clear in the research process of the case. However, the date for the verdict hearing is yet to be disclosed.

Closing remarks

President’s lawyer Abbas Shareef stated that certain arrangements of the presidential election were not made in ways that ensure a fair election.

The lawyer questioned the alleged unlawful awarding of the ballot paper printing without a bid, to local company M7 Prints, where Qasim Ibrahim, a prominent member of the opposition coalition holds repute.

Lawyer Shareef further noted that further investigations must be made into the use of erasable pens and special rings that could allegedly place checkmarks on ballots at polling stations, and the abrupt shift of the National Complaints Bureau to another location, the security of the locations where ballot boxes were stored and the absence of the use of UV lights to cross-check the legitimacy of the ballot papers.

The President’s lawyer also questioned the integrity of the Elections Commission, stating that the audio of a phone call between the EC Chief Shareef and a member of the electoral watchdog had been leaked recently.

In response to the claims, lawyer Hussain Shameem, representing the commission expressed that the accusations were baseless and added that President Yameen’s legal team must provide concrete evidence against the claims.

Shameem noted that such a sizeable lead in the results of the election cannot be overcome without strong reason and evidence. He added that the General Elections Act states that in order for an election to be declared as invalid, it has to be proven in Court that in a voting area something irregular has happened which has a negative impact on the results of the election, and the court determines that due to that, the results of the election could change.

In response to allegations by lawyer Shareef, Shameem stated that the ballot printing bid was awarded with authorization from the finance ministry. He also noted that the complaints bureau did not stop work despite moving to a different location stressed that UV lights were only to be used to check ballots at stations where complaints were filed.

Speaking of the request for further investigation into certain matter by President Yameen’s lawyer, Shameem stated that the nature of the case remained unclear. Shameed noted that on the first day of the hearing, the President’s legal team said it was a constitutional matter, the later stated it was a constitutional matter with criminal elements during Monday’s hearing while arguing passionately, before again stating that the case is constitutional.

Shameem further advised to act accordingly with the nature of the case.

Chief Justice Didi, along with a five-judge, is presiding over the case filed by the incumbent President Yameen tonullify the results oof the election.

Both pro-government and opposition coaltion supporters were gathered outside the courthouse when the hearings took place.