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Convicts barred from running in presidential primaries: Maldives electoral watchdog

Fathmath Shaahunaz
20 May 2018, MVT 19:37
Leaders of the joint opposition (L-R): Jumhoory Party leader Qasim Ibrahim, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, former President Mohamed Nasheed, Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran - out of three, Qasim, Nasheed and Imran have been convicted of various offences, while Maumoon is currently detained under terrorism and bribery charges. PHOTO/MIHAARU
Fathmath Shaahunaz
20 May 2018, MVT 19:37

The Elections Commission (EC) on Sunday proclaimed that anyone convicted of a criminal offence could not legally contest in a political party's presidential primary election, warning that such elections would be annulled.

The EC made the declaration in a notice concerning the presidential election slated for coming September, stating that only candidates that meet the prerequisites for president as per the Constitution would be allowed to run in primaries.

The commission made the statement soon after former President Mohamed Nasheed formally applied to contest in main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)'s presidential primary scheduled to be held May 30. While MDP's electoral committee has deemed his application legitimate, Nasheed is currently sentenced to 13-years in jail under terrorism charges over the arbitrary detention of a judge during his regime.

He is thus ineligible to run for presidency according to Subject 109 of the Constitution, which reads that a person elected as president should "not have been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to a term of more than twelve months, unless a period of three years has elapsed since his release, or pardon for the offence for which he was sentenced".

Meanwhile, opposition coalition member Jumhoory Party's presidential candidate is its leader, Qasim Ibrahim, as per the party's charter. However Qasim has also been convicted after the Criminal Court found him guilty of bribery last year, and sentenced him to three years in prison. The former lawmaker is also over 65 years of age, which again bars him from running for presidency under an amendment to the Constitution.

The Elections Commission further noted that the third amendment made to the Political Parties Act in 2013 prohibits all individuals convicted of criminal offences from contesting in parties' primaries. The EC warned that such candidacies would be deemed null and void.

It also stated that political parties are mandated to ensure that their presidential candidates meet all the prerequisites defined under Subject 109 of the Constitution.

In the notice, the commission went on to highlight that political parties are to inform the EC of their primaries, or decisions to grant their electoral tickets to candidates sans primaries, beforehand. Parties are to notify EC of the dates of their primary elections, and details of candidates between May 21 to July 1, as well as the results of the elections before July 8.

The EC also brought the parties' attention to the following points regarding their presidential primaries:

- Primaries must be held in accordance to the regulations stated in the party's charter. If the charter did not specify policies on holding primaries, the election must be held according to previous primaries.

- All parties must refrain from violating any clause stated in the Political Parties Act, or any other legislation.

- Applications for the primary must be open to all members of the party.

- The voting process of primaries must be carried out fairly and transparently.

The EC added that it was the commission's lawful responsibility to inquire into the legitimacy of parties' proceedings.

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