Supreme Court rules Yameen cannot contest election

PPM's leader, former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

The Supreme Court, on Sunday, ruled against former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom in a petition he filed with the court, contesting the Elections Commission (EC)’s decision to reject his candidacy for the upcoming presidential election.

Yameen, the leader of the main opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), was sentenced to 11 years in prison for money laundering and bribery charges in connection to the sale of V. Aarah for resort development on December 25, 2022.

Despite his imprisonment, he submitted his candidacy for the September 9 election last week.

The EC rejected Yameen’s candidacy due to his conviction, citing Article 109 (f) of the Constitution, which disqualifies candidates who have been sentenced to over 12 months in prison for a crime, unless it has been at least three years since they have completed their sentence or have been pardoned.

He contested the decision with the Supreme Court, which ruled on Sunday morning that the opposition leader is ineligible to contest the election.

The decision was unanimous.

The EC had rejected Yameen’s candidacy based on two main factors; his criminal conviction, and his failure to settle the fine he was ordered to pay as part of his sentence.

Reading the verdict, Justice Husnu Al Suood said that Yameen does not meet the eligibility criteria declared on Article 109 of the Constitution.

He also said that though Yameen has appealed his sentence with the High Court, the sentence must be enforced as long as it is not overturned.

Suood said that the EC was therefore right in its decision to reject Yameen’s candidacy.

The full bench of the court agreed with Suood’s reasoning, agreeing that the commission was right to decide Yameen does not qualify for the election.

Yameen had also asked the Supreme Court to order an extension to the deadline for filing candidacy to allow PPM to produce an alternative candidate if he loses the case.

However, the court did not make a decision regarding the request, as the party still has until Monday to submit candidacy.

In addition to contesting the EC’s decision with the Supreme Court, Yameen had instructed PPM’s coalition partner, the People’s National Congress (PNC) to produce its own presidential candidate as a “backup.”

The PNC’s senate took a vote to decide its presidential candidate on Thursday, which was won by the Male’ City mayor Dr. Mohamed Muizzu.

However, the joint PPM-PNC leadership now say that PPM will produce an alternative candidate, and that supporting PNC’s candidate is a “third choice.”

PPM is expected to announce its new presidential candidate soon.