Maldives ruling party will accept top court verdict on election challenge

Maldives ruling party on Tuesday expressed hope of succeeding in its bid to annul last month's presidential election, but said it would respect the Supreme Court verdict on the legal challenge whatever the outcome.

Incumbent president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom legal challenge at the Supreme Court on Wednesday citing rigging and electoral fraud.

As the Supreme Court began the final hearing on the challenge on Tuesday, ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) spokesperson Ali Arif told AVAS that president Yameen had to challenge the election result for the sake of his supporters.

The Kelaa lawmaker Arif insisted that the concerns of the electoral process had to be answered.

"Each and everyone of us must go to court to get justice. PPM is doing this to ensure the rights of thousands of people. We are very confident that justice will prevail. But our party has always respected court rulings," Arif explained.

The case largely accused the Elections commission of using pens with disappearing ink while ballot papers had also been laced with a chemical that wiped votes for president Yameen.

During the second hearing on Monday, president Yameen's legal team had asked the Supreme Court to take the testimonies of the three witnesses in secret to protect them citing a threat to their lives.

Lawyers alleged that elections chief Ahmed Shareef had facilitated visa for an unnamed person who had flown to China to bring the 'pen rings' to the Maldives which was then used by election officials to secretly mark blank ballots during the counting process.

The Supreme Court was also told that the log of people entering and leaving the storage room where the ballot papers were kept was not properly maintained which proved that the elections commission had not tracked access to the ballot papers prior to the elections.

The five judge bench would make a decision on taking the testimonies of the witnesses in secret during the third and final hearing.

The decision would be key to the eventual outcome of the challenge as the testimonies of the three witnesses remain the only real evidence presented by president Yameen to back his claim of vote rigging.

Speaking during the second hearing on Monday, opposition alliance lawyer Hisan Hussain reiterated that the entire case was based on pure "conspiracy theories."

Hisan said claims such as pen rings and disappearing ink were fantastical and the only thing missing from the case was a "magic carpet."

She insisted that president Yameen had not presented a single shred of evidence to back his outrageous claims of vote rigging and fraud.

Yameen lost the September 23 election by a margin of 16 percent to opposition alliance candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, in an outcome hailed as a win for democracy in the crisis-hit archipelago.

The result was widely accepted, including by the United States, China, India, and the European Union.

Yameen conceded defeat a day after the election but had alleged widespread irregularities in the vote.