On Sunday, the Supreme Court delivered a verdict against former Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, dismissing his petition and upholding the Elections Commission (EC)’s decision to reject his candidacy for the upcoming presidential election. The ruling came after Yameen, leader of the main opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), was sentenced to 11 years in prison for money laundering and bribery charges related to the sale of V. Aarah for resort development on December 25, 2022.
Despite his incarceration, Yameen defiantly submitted his candidacy for the September 9 election last week. However, the EC cited Article 109 (f) of the Constitution, which disqualifies candidates who have been sentenced to over 12 months in prison for a crime, unless they have completed their sentence or received a pardon after at least three years.
In response to the EC’s decision, Yameen contested the case with the Supreme Court, but the court ruled on Sunday morning that the opposition leader is ineligible to run for the presidency. The decision was unanimous among the justices.
The EC’s rejection of Yameen’s candidacy was based on two key factors: his criminal conviction and his failure to settle the fine imposed as part of his sentence. Justice Husnu Al Suood, reading the verdict, stated that Yameen did not meet the eligibility criteria outlined in Article 109 of the Constitution. Suood also emphasized that, despite Yameen’s appeal to the High Court, the sentence must be enforced unless overturned.
The full bench of the Supreme Court agreed with Suood’s reasoning, affirming the commission’s decision that Yameen does not meet the requirements to qualify for the election.
Yameen had additionally requested the Supreme Court to extend the candidacy filing deadline, allowing PPM to produce an alternative candidate if he loses the case. However, the court did not address this request, as the party still has until Monday to submit another candidate.
Alongside challenging the EC’s decision, Yameen had instructed the People’s National Congress (PNC), PPM’s coalition partner, to produce its own presidential candidate as a “backup.” The PNC’s senate conducted a vote on Thursday, resulting in Male’ City mayor Dr. Mohamed Muizzu being selected as their candidate.
Despite this, the joint PPM-PNC leadership now states that PPM will present its alternative candidate, viewing support for the PNC’s candidate as a “third choice.”
As the political landscape shifts in the Maldives, all eyes are on PPM, which is expected to announce its new presidential candidate imminently.