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Statement, Commonwealth Secretary-General, Maldives

12 March 2014

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma today noted the approval by the Maldives Parliament, or Majlis, of a new member of the Maldives Elections Commission, ensuring that it has the necessary quorum to proceed with elections.

The Secretary-General said: “We hope that a credible and inclusive parliamentary election can be held in accordance with the constitution, and that Maldivians will be able to cast their votes with confidence and with the will of the people being respected.”

In a ruling on 9 March 2014, the Supreme Court of Maldives found members of the Elections Commission guilty of contempt of court. It declared the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Commission dismissed from their posts, with the Chair given a suspended prison sentence of six months. The Supreme Court assumed new powers enabling it to initiate cases, and issued the ruling less than two weeks before parliamentary elections scheduled for 22 March. Such action by the Court less than two weeks before the election could be viewed as potentially affecting the electoral process adversely.

The Secretary-General added: “The separation of powers is a fundamental political value of the Commonwealth, to which all member states are committed. For a democracy to function effectively, it is critical that institutions operate within their own constitutional mandate and do not encroach either on the ability of other independent institutions to execute their own remits or on the constitutional authority of other branches of government. Actions that undermine the independence of an elections commission have a negative effect on democracy as a whole.”

Mr Sharma recalled that in the Report of the Commonwealth Observer Group to the Maldives Presidential Elections in 2013, the Group had recommended that, “…there should be better recognition of the mandate and statutory and constitutional independence of the Elections Commission.”

The Maldives Elections Commission has invited the Commonwealth to observe the parliamentary elections. An observer group has been constituted and an announcement will be made shortly.