Supreme Court of Maldives sacked Election Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek

Mar 12, 2014 12:45 IST

The Supreme Court of Maldives on 9 March 2014 sacked the Election Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek and his deputy Ahmad Fayaz. They were sacked on charge of contempt of court.

The Court also gave Fuwad Thowfeek a six-month jail sentence, suspended for three years. That is jail sentence will come into effect only if he is found guilty of the offense again during a three-year period.

The Court gave the jail sentence to Thowfeek for criticising court’s interference in the conduct of the Presidential poll held in September 2013. The court took cognisance of the matter suo motu (by itself), and declared that Thowfeek and the other Commissioners were in contempt of court.

imageThe Court decision has put the question mark on the Parliamentary polls that was scheduled to be held on 22 March 2014. The question mark emanates from both Constitutional and operational angle. From the Constitutional viewpoint, the power to appoint or dismiss members of the Elections Commission rests with the parliament, the Majlis as per the Article 177 of the Constitution.

From the operational viewpoint, the sacking of Thowfeek and Fayaz and quitting of one member already has left the five members Election Commission with only two Election Commissioners. This is one short of a quorum that is required to take any decision.

The US and the United Nations have expressed concern over the punishment of the Maldives' Election Commissioner by the country's Supreme Court. They had strongly object to the recent actions of the Maldivian Supreme Court including trying and convicting members of the Election Commission.

Background

Tensions between the judiciary and the Elections Commission arose after Thowfeek spoke out against some controversial judgments by the Supreme Court pertaining to  presidential election held in September 2013. In the elections, Yameen Abdul Gayoom, the brother of the Maldives' former authoritarian ruler, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, eventually was elected as the Maldives new President. Gayoom 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.

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