FIFA and AFC have ordered the Football Association of Maldives’ (FAM) to suspend the association’s elections for the post of President of the FAM. FIFA and AFC brought into question the validity of the composition of FAM’s Electoral Committee, which had earlier annulled the candidacy of Ahmed ‘Tom’ Thariq — a former president at FAM and the current Member of Parliament (MP) for Mahibadhoo.

FIFA and AFC issued the order after Thariq filed a complaint with the regional and global football governing bodies. Notably, FAM had also sought the advice of FIFA and AFC to decide on how to proceed in the absence of an electoral appeal committee.

Thariq, in a message to local media on Monday, said he had received a response from FIFA and AFC regarding his complaint about the FAM election and that, similarly, the advice given to FAM on their query to FIFA and AFC was to suspend the election process and follow proper procedure.

AFC and FIFA have said that the FAM’s electoral process is not valid and that, while the current electoral process is unacceptable, the FAM Electoral Committee and Electoral Appeal Committee should be appointed by the same Congress and the FAM should comply with the Electoral Code.

The FIFA and AFC joint decision called for the suspension of ⁠⁠all ongoing election activities, and the re-election of the Electoral Committee as well as the Electoral Appeal Committee — by holding a Congress with the simultaneous appointment of members to the two committees in accordance with the Charter and the Electoral Code — which could then be followed by an election process starting from scratch.

FIFA and the AFC will be closely monitoring all activities related to the FAM election, the regional and international bodies said.

Mufawiz ‘Mufa’ Hashim, who is the Vice Chairperson at Club Eagles, has also filed his candidacy to contest the FAM election.

Meanwhile, FAM President Bassam Adeel Jaleel had decided not to seek re-election, with the association calling for early elections amid an ongoing criminal probe into illicit dealing at FAM under Jaleel’s leadership which, among others, included allegations of embezzlement.

Thariq filed his case against the FAM Electoral Committee with FIFA and AFC, stating that the FAM elections could not proceed with an invalid committee at the helm, after the association’s Electoral Committee rejected his candidacy — it later became known that the FAM Electoral Committee had been improperly constituted.

Thariq’s bid was invalidated when Club Valencia’s letter endorsing his candidacy was backed by a resolution bearing the signature of the club’s chairman Abdulla Azmeen. An endorsement letter, from the same club, endorsing Hashim was signed by Vice Chairman Ilmaau ‘Mau’ Hussain, and included the endorsement of the club’s board members. According to FAM guidelines only one letter of endorsement may be issued by each first division club.

In the case of the two letters of support from Valencia, the FAM Electoral Committee asked the AFC for advice on how to move forward. Once the deadline for clarification and finalising the candidacies had passed, the Electoral Committee decided to annul both letters issued by Valencia; meaning Thariq had the endorsement of two first division clubs, while Hashim’s candidacy was backed by five clubs. Since FAM’s guidelines required each candidate must have the support of at least three first division clubs, Thariq’s candidacy could not go forward, the electoral committee ruled.

Thariq appealed the decision. According to FAM rules, a decision on the appeal should be issued within three days of the date of filing. However, when the deadline expired, the FAM, which had not held a meeting due to the absence of an Electoral Appeal Committee, sought the advice of the AFC and FIFA.

Amid the procedural issues, the Commissioner of Sports, Mohamed Tholal, also advised the postponement of the FAM elections. His advice was seemingly disregarded as the FAM, citing advice from FIFA and AFC, continued to work towards the election. However, in response to Thariq’s complaint, FIFA had advised that elections could not proceed without fully complying with all procedures, which the world football governing body deemed FAM had not followed.

Two factions had formed within Valencia over the FAM elections, with a no-confidence motion on Azmeen tabled twice at a meeting of board members, according to one faction. The Commissioner of Sports, Tholal, was also invited to observe the second no-confidence motion — he did not attend. However, Azmeen has since been removed as chairman of Valencia.