Maldives ruling party wins case to delay council polls

Maldives civil court on Thursday ruled to delay the upcoming local council elections by two months.

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) filed the case seeking to delay the upcoming council polls by two months citing that the ongoing rift within the party had impeded its preparations for the elections slated for January 14.

The divisions within the ruling party stem from a dispute between the elder Gayoom and his half brother President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

After a single hearing in the case, the court had rejected the country's electoral watchdog's warning that a delay would result in millions of taxpayers money being wasted and could set a dangerous precedent for future elections, to rule in PPM's favour.

The case had also argued that the party database and other key documents that had been reported missing after the handover, which had also hampered its preparations for the elections.

As the party would face irrevocable loss if it contested the elections on the scheduled date, PPM had urged the court to postpone the elections by two months.

The ruling party also pointed that several elections in the past had also been put off the scheduled date.

Countering the party's arguments, the Attorney General's office lawyer representing the elections commission in the case insisted that past decision is not a plausible reason to postpone the upcoming elections.

According to law, the Elections Commission must hold the local council elections 30 days before the end of the present councilors’ term -- which means the commission must hold the elections in January as per the constitution, as the term of the councilors will be up in February.

PPM's ousted leader Gayoom had also intervened in the case along with main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and religiously conservative Adhaalath Party (AP).

The court during the first hearing had allowed all parties to present their respective arguments.

MDP's lawyer said the ruling party had failed to provide a valid legal reason to postpone the elections pointing that the case was based on an internal conflict.

Gayoom's lawyer said the move could set a dangerous precedent where individual candidates in future elections can cite a personal matter and seek postponement.

The rift between the Gayooms grew to the point of causing a split in the party. The matter eventually saw its end in court with the reins of the party being given to the party's chief adviser, President Yameen.

The elder Gayoom has however, continued to defy the court ruling and has since led a breakaway faction within the party with his supporters, and has since withdrawn his support for the government.