Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)'s Chairperson Hassan Latheef on Wednesday defended former President Mohamed Nasheed's candidacy for the party's presidential primary, following a warning by the Elections Commission (EC) to dissolve MDP.
After the main opposition's announcement that Nasheed was its only candidate for the primary election slated for May 30, the electoral watchdog had warned MDP on Tuesday that its primary would be deemed null and void, and the party could be dissolved if Nasheed were allowed to contest.
The EC issued the warning as Nasheed is currently sentenced to 13 years in jail under terrorism charges for the arbitrary detention of a judge during his regime, and thus ineligible to run for presidency. Subject 109 of the Constitution 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".
The commission also referred to the third amendment made to the Political Parties Act in 2013, which prohibits all individuals convicted of criminal offences from contesting in parties' primaries.
Responding to the EC's warning, Chairperson Latheef declared that MDP was holding its primary according to the party's charter, which states that MDP's presidential nominee must be elected via a primary. Latheef added that the party's charter did not state that its primary candidates must conform to conditions set by the EC, and thus there was no reason barring Nasheed from running.
Touching upon Nasheed's jail sentence, Latheef reiterated MDP's stance that the former president's terrorism trial had grossly lacked due process, despite both the High Court and Supreme Court upholding the Criminal Court's verdict. Latheef also noted that the United Nations (UN)'s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had ruled in Nasheed's favour twice and called on the Maldivian government for his immediate release.
Latheef further referred to the Supreme Court's landmark ruling of February 1, which was unanimously released by the five justices of the court ordering to release nine political prisoners, including Nasheed.
Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed of the top court had been arrested soon after the verdict, accused of attempting a coup via the court order, and the remaining three judges had subsequently revoked the order to free the prisoners. However, Latheef maintained that the three justices could not annul an order that had been unanimously issued by the full bench.
Proclaiming that thus the party could not be legally dissolved under the circumstances, Latheef accused the EC of deceit and working under the orders of President Abdulla Yameen.