Asia’s longest serving leader, is free to run for another five-year term
BadrNaseem | October 2, 2008 at 05:47 amby
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Breaking News : President Gayoom Can Stand For Seventh Term
By Olivia Lang in Malé
October 2, 2008
President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is eligible to stand for a seventh term in office, Supreme Court judges ruled on Thursday.
In an unsurprising verdict, judges stated Gayoom, Asia’s longest serving leader, is free to run for another five-year term in the country’s first multiparty elections next Wednesday.
Gayoom’s candidacy was challenged by opposition Social Liberal Party, over a new two-term limit enshrined in the constitution, ratified in August.
Following the verdict, Social Liberal Party presidential candidate Ibrahim Ismail conceded defeat, saying he believed justice is not always obtained in court.
“As this decision was made by the Supreme Court we should respect it. But it doesn’t mean we accept it,” he told press outside.
“But we have achieved some of the things we wanted to…The fact that we could bring the issue to such a high level is a success in itself,” he added.
But defending lawyer Ahmed Fizan said the court was right in its ruling. “This was work done by some people to stop the process. This is a good decision,” he said.
The court did not explicitly rule on whether the constitution was an ‘amended’ or ‘new’ constitution, a key controversy in the debate.
The SLP has consistently argued it is revised, and therefore Gayoom has served more than two terms and was therefore ineligible for running again, but the government maintains it is a new document, acting as a clean slate.
Supreme Court judges were voted in on 18 September, the last possible date to meet the 21 September deadline in the constitution for a Supreme Court to come into being.
But opposition MPs walked out in protest at a lack of information on the nominees, whilst legal reform minister Mohamed Nasheed expressed “disappointment” that no candidate had any formal background in common law.
At the time, human rights lawyer Husnu Suood said it was "a sad day for justice". He also hit out at opposition MPs for walking out instead of attempting to block the government’s Dhivehi Raiyyithunge Party (DRP) through voting.
Thursday’s verdict was made at Muleeage, the former presidential palace building in the capital, Malé.
President Gayoom is also being challenged by the religious conservative Adaalaath Party, who argue he is not a Sunni Muslim, a pre-requisite for presidency. A total of 42 of the country’s religious scholars have issued a fatwa against him.
The verdict of the second case will be issued on Thursday afternoon.