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Maldives’ court sacks elections commissioners

March 9, 2014

MALE, Maldives (AP) — The highest court of the Maldives on Sunday sacked the country’s elections commissioner and gave him a suspended jail term for contempt of court after a months-long confrontation.

The Supreme Court of the Indian Ocean archipelago nation removed Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek as well as his deputy Ahmed Fayaz. Thowfeek received a six-month jail sentence that was suspended for three years. It will come into effect only if he is found guilty of the offense again during a three-year period.

Judges said that the officials had disrespected the court by not following election guidelines set out by the judges.

The judgment throws the country’s parliamentary election scheduled for March 22 into jeopardy because it leaves only two members now sitting on the five-member Elections Commission. A third commissioner had previously resigned.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party has threatened to boycott the election. Party spokesman Hamid Abdul Gafoor said a final decision would be taken Monday by the party’s national council.

Tensions between the judiciary and the Elections Commission arose after Thowfeek spoke out against some controversial judgments by the Supreme Court pertaining to last year’s presidential election in which Yameen Abdul Gayoom, the brother of the Maldives’ former authoritarian ruler, eventually was elected as the country’s new president in a runoff in November. Gayoom, the brother of former autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom who ruled the island nation for 30 years, won a narrow victory over Mohamed Nasheed, who led the struggle for democracy and was elected president in 2008 in the country’s first multiparty election.

The results of a Sept. 7 first-round presidential election were annulled by the Supreme Court after another candidate complained that the voters’ register contained made up names and those of dead people.

A widespread outcry erupted after the court decided to annul the September election that local and international monitors found to be free and fair. MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed led that vote but fell short of the 50 percent needed for an outright win. Police acting under a court order stopped a subsequent revote and the long intervals gave Nasheed’s opponents enough time to form a coalition and defeat him narrowly in a third attempt to hold the election.

The opposition MDP has accused the judiciary of favoring Gayoom.

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