“Everything is in order” for Maldives’ presidential election runoff: EC

Polls open on Saturday at 7:30am and close at 4:00pm. Counting will start 30 minutes after polls close. Check where you are registered to vote using the EC’s 1414 SMS system (text 1414 in the format ‘VIS [National ID #]’, or by visiting the EC’s website.

Final preparations are underway and “everything is in order” for the Maldives’ Elections Commission to hold tomorrow’s presidential election second round runoff, says the commission.

Saturday’s (November 16) vote will mark the sixth time the Elections Commission (EC) has prepared to hold presidential polls over the last two months.

While last Saturday’s (November 9) first round revote was conducted without incident – and showed nearly identical results to the annulled September 7 first round – the November 10 runoff was halted by an early morning Supreme Court order.

“Everything is in order” for a free, fair, inclusive and transparent poll to take place tomorrow, EC Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News today (November 15).

“Both the presidential candidates’ appointees signed [the voter registry] yesterday. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) finished at 4:00pm, while the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) finished at 8:15pm,” he noted.

EC Director General Mohamed Shakeel echoed these sentiments speaking to Minivan News today.

“The Elections Commission is prepared for the runoff tomorrow,” said Shakeel. “All [voter] lists are now off to the atolls and abroad. Some have already been delivered to the atoll islands.”

He also noted that elections officials’ training was completed Thursday night and they are “now off to their assigned islands and countries”.

“Personally I believe we are ready for a free, fair, inclusive and transparent poll tomorrow,” Shakeel concluded.

Polling will take place from 7:30am to 4:00pm tomorrow, he added.

The Maldives Police Service is working alongside the EC to transport ballot papers and other materials in preparation for tomorrow’s presidential run-off, according to local media.

The EC also announced earlier this week that voters left-hand ring fingers will be marked in tomorrow’s election, with the right and left-hand forefingers having been marked in the two previous polls on September 7 and October 9.

Uphold electoral laws: EC

Meanwhile, the commission has asked all stakeholders to adhere to elections laws and regulations while campaigning, and not to undermine the electoral rights of any candidate.

In particular, the EC urged the public at large to not engage in anti-campaigning and/or propagating false information against either presidential candidate and reiterated that all campaigning must cease by today’s 6:00pm deadline.

The commission will take action against any individual or group that violates these electoral laws, the EC also noted in a press statement released yesterday.

The European Union said yesterday that it is prepared to consider “appropriate measures” should Saturday’s run-off election be subverted, and the country fall into authoritarianism.

Past presidential polls

Prior to the November 9 revote, the Elections Commission called upon “all friends of democracy to help us deliver a free, fair, transparent and inclusive presidential election as scheduled”.

The September 7 first round poll received a unanimous positive assessment by more than a thousand local and international election observers, before Jumhooree Party (JP)’s leader, Gasim Ibrahim, who placed third in the poll refused to accept the results.

After agreeing to hear Gasim’s complaints, the Supreme Court then issued an injunction on September 23 to indefinitely delay the presidential election’s second round, before the police physically halted the EC’s ongoing preparations for the September 28 run-off.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled to annul the first round – citing a secret police report which alleged electoral fraud, but was never presented to the EC’s lawyers – and delineated 16 guidelines to hold a revote by October 20.

With just 11 days to prepare for the next round of the presidential election – a process that usually requires a minimum of 45 days – the Supreme Court issued subsequent rulings dictating managerial and administrative tasks the EC must undertake while preparing for the repeat first round.

The apex court’s guidelines also mandated police play a substantive role in handling the logistics and security of the election and ballot papers, as well as demanded that all parties sign the voter lists, effectively giving presidential candidates veto power.

The day before the scheduled October 19 election, candidates Abdulla Yameen and Gasim had still not signed the voter lists and were not responding to phone calls from the EC or officials sent to their homes. The pair subsequently demanded extensive fingerprint verification of the new voters’ registry – another stipulation of the Supreme Court midnight rulings.

The same evening both candidates sought a Supreme Court ruling demanding that the election be delayed.

Receiving only a brief instruction from the court to follow its guidelines, the EC prioritised the guideline requiring an election before Oct 20 and proceeded with the vote.

However, an hour before polls were due to open on October 19 police obstructed EC staff attempting to leave the commission’s office with ballot documents and equipment – later stating that police had decided not to provide cooperation to the EC as it had not followed the 16-point guidelines imposed by the court.

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has since concluded that police illegally blocked the EC from conducting the re-vote of the presidential election on October 19 in contravention of the constitution, the Police Act, and the Elections Act.

Following the rescheduling of the election for November 9 – just two days before the end of the presidential term – Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek labelled the Supreme Court’s guidelines “restrictions” and expressed concern that they effectively allowed political parties to stop elections from happening.

Amidst presidential elections preparations, the EC has also published by-laws regarding local council elections to take place in December.


Maldives police, thugs clash with pro-democracy protesters

Riot police, protesters and thugs brutally clashed during demonstrations last night, after President Mohamed Waheed declared he would stay in power beyond the conclusion of his presidential term.

Waheed’s decision half an hour before the expiry of his term prompted people to take to the streets in Male’.

While the majority of protesters were Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters, other political parties were also demonstrating to demand the constitution be upheld and Shahid be sworn in as president, a protest participant told Minivan News.

The Supreme Court on November 9 upheld its earlier ruling from October 7 stating that Waheed could remain in power past the conclusion of his term on November 11, dismissing a parliament resolution passed last week demanding the installment of the speaker after the expiry of the term.

Waheed, who received just 5.13 percent in the annulled first round vote on September 7, had previously declared that he had no intention of remaining in power “even a day after November 11”.

Prior to Waheed’s announcement, Minivan News observed large numbers of riot police assembling in Republic Square. Following Waheed’s declaration to remain in power protests immediately erupted in Male’.

About 100 protesters on foot and motorcycles had gathered in front of police barricades near Majeedia School on Sosun Magu by 11:45pm (November 10), continuously blasting vehicle horns and shouting at the Maldives Police Service (MPS), calling for Shahid to assume the presidency.

After the protesters moved the police barricades and began walking toward the People’s Majlis (Parliament), Special Operations (SO) police responded forcibly, hauling individuals from the crowd into custody, while aggressively forcing protesters back toward Sosun Magu.

Minivan News witnessed SO police pushing two young Maldivian women as well as a female Chinese photographer to clear the intersection.

Meanwhile a group of at least six police officers surrounded a male protester who was retreating back toward Sosun Magu, brutally beat him with their batons and pepper-sprayed his face at point blank range, before taking the man into custody. Another male protester on a motorcycle – who was in the process of turning to head back toward Sosun Magu – was hauled off his bike and beaten by multiple police officers.

Multiple protesters warned Minivan News to be cautious of “drunken thugs” dispersed among the crowd in a bid to incite violence.

A number of protesters alleged that the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had hired gang members to act aggressive and violent, to prompt police to crackdown on the demonstrators.

“Everyone says this will continue until [former 30-year autocratic ruler] Maumoon Gayoom dies. He has too much money, power and influence. He does not want to let go,” 28 year-old Ahmed lamented. “And his corrupted family web have tentacles in everything.”

“The mafia keeps holding on to power. Today is a black day because we are going to crush down our own constitution,” said 27 year-old Saeed.

Shortly after being forced from the intersection, demonstrators surrounded and temporarily hijacked two city buses, pushed them toward the intersection and attempted to tip them over. Large stones were then hurled toward the riot police before they charged the crowd and arrested more people.

By approximately 2:00am the crowd had swelled to around 1000, who were primarily gathered near the intersection as well as scattered down the length of Sosun Magu.

Over 250 SO riot police were present and made multiple incursions into the crowd, charging demonstrators before dragging them away into custody. Some protesters near the police line were throwing stones, making a blockade with bicycles, and removing police barricades. However the vast majority were demonstrating peacefully, with a few sitting down in front of the barricades.

During one particularly violent ‘snatch and grab’ operation around 2:30am, Minivan News heard a small explosion before riot police stormed into the demonstration.

SO officers proceeded to rip the clothes off of a middle-aged man while arresting him. The protester had to hold his ‘mundu’ (traditional sarong) with one hand while being led away to prevent being undressed..

Minivan News also witnessed police hitting and trying to drag into custody a former Province Minister who was peaceably protesting; ultimately he was not arrested.

A group of riot police then began shoving photographers and journalists down the sidewalk, in addition to forcing protesters further south down Sosun Magu. The police line moved aggressively and a group of about 20 people were forced to seek refuge in an alley to prevent being trampled or injured.

Minivan News was repeatedly told by the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to stay behind police lines or be treated as a protester and risk injury. A photographer for local media outlet Haveeru sustained a head injury while reporting on the demonstration.

Additionally local media outlet Raajje TV claimed to have witnessed police leading away man by the groin.

“They are arresting him so they can go rape him,” two female protesters shouted at the SO as the man was being led away.

Police also grabbed a female protester’s buttocks and were beating old ladies on the side of the road, a protester alleged to Minivan News.

As the police crackdown grew more violent, the protesters’ response escalated, with more individuals throwing stones, while a few set fire to a barricade.

The demonstrators began chanting “money money SO”, and yelling insults at the riot police.

“What is the point in peacefully protesting? That’s what we’ve been doing since the February [2012] coup and nothing has changed,” said a 26 year-old protester.

“Every time [we protest] it’s like a flash of light which enlightens the whole country and then the light goes off for another week or more. It’s been like that since last February. People are feeling hopeless,” he continued.

“We just have a new dictator baghee [‘traitor’] Waheed; he’s Maumoon’s puppet,” he added.

Meanwhile a young boy, who appeared to be about eight years-old, showed Minivan News two stones that he indicated he was going to throw at the riot police. Shortly after, Minivan News learned the boy had been punched in the face and his bloody nose was being tended to by a half-dozen female protesters.

“This is nothing new. The security services have been acting this violent since Maumoon’s time. At least now you can talk about him without being jailed and tortured,” a former political prisoner and torture victim told Minivan News on condition of anonymity.

By 3:30am the crowd had thinned to around 200 protesters, at which point Minivan News witnessed a group of around six men that appeared to be in their 20’s arrived on motorcycles. The group proceeded to surround an MDP protester, forced him against the wall of a building, violently beat and attempted to stab the man with a large kitchen knife.

Police did not respond to the situation for several minutes – despite observing the attack – and eventually proceeded to take the victim into custody.

“Earlier the victim had been throwing stones at police,” an eyewitness told Minivan News. “I saw a police officer pick up the knife [after the attack], but they did not go after the thugs.”

“These gangsters were probably told who to target by the SO,” he alleged.

It is unclear whether the suspected attacker was taken into police custody or led away and then released, as there were conflicting eyewitness accounts.

SO police then proceeded to form a line and forced the remaining protesters and journalists to clear the area.

“There’s no law here according to the Supreme Court, President and police,” said a 27 year-old protester. “It’s a mafia state run by Maumoon and [PPM Presidential Candidate Abdulla] Yameen.”

Minivan News witnessed police arrest more than 25 individuals throughout the course of the protest.

As of 5:00am, one individual had been admitted for a minor head injury sustained in a fight, an Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) official told Minivan News.

While ADK Hospital told Minivan News that one person was in the emergency room, but could not specify the type of injury.

Police report

Minivan News called Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef today (November 11), who requested he be contacted via the police media line instead of his personal number.

Upon doing so, the officer who answered stated the call had been misdirected to the wrong line and requested Minivan News redial the police media line. After repeatedly redialing the police media line there was no response.

The MPS ran a live blog throughout last night’s protest that stated 24 individuals had been arrested.

23:58: A protester has thrown a stone at and injured a police officer.
00:38: A protester threw a rock that hit and injured a journalist. We have received information that he is being treated at ADK hospital.
00:49: Protesters on Sosun Magu are from time to time throwing rocks at police.
00:49: Police have detained an individual for breaking through police barricades.
00:58: Police have detained 6 individuals, including a woman, for breaking through police barricades.
01:05: Some individuals among the protesters on Sosun Magu have vandalized the traffic lights at Sosun Magu/Majeedhiyya School junction.
01:55: A device that appears to be a molotov cocktail exploded in front of the Naadhee Building on Sosun Magu.
01:59: Police have arrested 6 people for obstructing police duty.
02:05: Police have arrested four individuals for crossing police barricades and obstructing police duty.
02:08: Individuals among the protesters on Sosun Magu have kicked down some bicycles on Sosun Magu.
02:18: Police barricades have been torched.
02:19: We have received reports that protesters are from time to time throw rocks and bottles at the media personnel.
02:20: Police have doused the torched police barricades.
02:24: Police are trying to set back the protesters at Roashanee Building on Sosun Magu.
03:21: Police have detained three women who broke through police barricades.
03:31: Police have started to push back the protesters in front of Majeedhiyya School on Sosun Magu.
03:38: Police have arrested four individuals for disobedience to order as they push back protesters.
04:00: Protesters have voluntarily left the area.


Maldives’ Elections Commission calls on “all friends of democracy” for help conducting presidential poll as scheduled

The re-registration process for the presidential election first round – scheduled for November 9 – ends today at 10pm tonight (October 25).

Newly eligible voters and those who will be voting in a location other than their home island can collect forms from the Elections Commission Secretariat in Male’, from Island Council offices and online.

After re-registration is completed, the EC will receive rejected re-registration forms tomorrow (October 26). On the same day, the names of elections day officials will be sent to candidates for vetting as outlined in the SC guidelines.

“The Elections Commission of Maldives calls upon all friends of democracy to help us deliver a free, fair, transparent and inclusive presidential election as scheduled on 9 November 2013”, said a commission statement yesterday.

“So far over seventy million Maldivian Rufiyaa [US$ 4,566,240] has been spent on the unsuccessful attempts to hold the Presidential Election in the Maldives,” the Elections Commission (EC) stated in a press release issued Wednesday (October 23).

State-funded programs had to be halted in order to hold the October 19 re-vote, Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad has said previously.

This is the fourth time in two months the EC is preparing to hold a poll for the Maldives’ presidential election.

The September 7 first round poll received a unanimous positive assessment by more than a thousand local and international election observers, before Jumhooree Party (JP)’s leader, Gasim Ibrahim, who placed third in the poll refused to accept the results.

After agreeing to hear Gasim’s complaints, the Supreme Court then issued an injunction on September 23 to indefinitely delay the presidential election’s second round, before the police physically halted the EC’s ongoing preparations for the September 28 run-off.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled to annul the first round – citing a secret police report which alleged electoral fraud, but was never presented to the EC’s lawyers – and delineated 16 guidelines to hold a revote by October 20.

With just 11 days to prepare for the next round of the presidential election – a process that usually requires a minimum of 45 days –  the Supreme Court issued subsequent rulings dictating managerial and administrative tasks the EC must undertake while preparing for the repeat first round.

The apex court’s guidelines also mandated police play a substantive role in handling the logistics and security of the election and ballot papers, as well as demanded that all parties sign the voter lists, effectively giving presidential candidates veto power.

The day before the scheduled October 19 election, candidates Abdulla Yameen and Gasim had still not signed the voter lists and were not responding to phone calls from the EC or officials sent to their homes. The pair subsequently demanded extensive fingerprint verification of the new voters’ registry – another stipulation of the Supreme Court midnight rulings.

The same evening both candidates sought a Supreme Court ruling demanding that the election be delayed.

Receiving only a brief instruction from the court to follow its guidelines, the EC prioritised the guideline requiring an election before Oct 20 and proceeded with the vote.

However, an hour before polls were due to open on October 19 police obstructed EC staff attempting to leave the commission’s office with ballot documents and equipment – later stating that police had decided not to provide cooperation to the EC as it had not followed the 16-point guidelines imposed by the court.

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has since concluded that police illegally blocked the EC from conducting the re-vote of the presidential election on October 19 in contravention of the constitution, the Police Act, and the Elections Act.

Following the rescheduling of the election for November 9 – just two days before the end of the presidential term – Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek labelled the Supreme Court’s guidelines “restrictions” and expressed concern that they effectively allowed political parties to stop elections from happening.

The Elections Commission’s statement issued Thursday (October 24) recounts the presidential elections saga that has taken place over the last two months:

As mandated by the Constitution and Electoral Laws of the country, Elections Commission of the Maldives (ECM) held the first round of the presidential election 2013 on 7th September 2013. The conduction of the election was smooth and orderly without any serious cause for concern. National and international observers praised the election as free, fair, transparent and inclusive. In fact many international observers described the conduction of the election as one of the most peaceful and best they have observed. ECM was hailed for the way they have carried out such a smooth and peaceful election. One of the non-governmental organisations (NGO)’s stated that compilation of the voters’ list was excellent with a probable error rate lower than one percent. However one of the competing parties (Jumhooree Party) filed a case at the Supreme Court of Maldives to invalidate the election mostly arguing on the accuracy of the voters’ list. The Supreme Court after 22 days of deliberation found that the ECM had over five thousand (5000) fraudulent names on the voters’ list and annulled the result of the election. Since no candidate had achieved over 50 percent of the voters in the first round, ECM was on the verge of conducting the second round of the presidential election on 28th September 2013 when the Supreme Court ordered to annul the first round of the election. And as a consequence of annulment of the first round, the runoff was cancelled.

The main reason for the annulment of the election was based on discrepancies in the name or addresses of the voters. Nine hundred and fifty two (952) votes were invalidated due to slight differences in the name of the voters (some examples of discrepancies included Mariyam Sheran Mohamed Waheed Deen in the voters’ list as opposed to Mariyam Sheran Waheed Deen in the National Register and Ali Rila in the voters’ list was spelled as Ali Riza in the National Register etc.). Two thousand eight hundred and thirty (2830) votes were invalidated because the address in the voters’ list differed from their permanent addresses in the National Register even though their National Identity Card number and date of birth were the same and their National ID photo matched with the person who voted.

The Supreme Court ordered re-polling under a 16 point guideline set out by the Supreme Court and ordered that first round of the presidential election to be held before 20th October 2013 and should a runoff be required, to hold the second round before 3rd November 2013. One of the most contentious clauses in the guideline was clause number five which gives veto power to candidates to reject the voters’ list.

The first round of the presidential election was set to take place on 19th October 2013. After the lists were finalized candidates were given time to sign the final voters’ list. Mr Gasim Ibrahim (Jumhooree Party) and Mr Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom (Progressive Party of Maldives) refused to sign the voters’ list. The reason for refusal being that they were unable to verify the voters’ list. Mr Mohamed Nasheed (Maldivian Democratic Party) signed the voters’ list. Even though two candidates refused to sign the list, ECM was preparing to go ahead with the election as scheduled. However due to police action in the early hours of 19th October 2013 (polling day) ECM was prevented from conducting the election. The police refused to provide security to the ballot paper and also prevented election related materials being taken out of the ECM office making it impossible to hold the election.

ECM has now again rescheduled the first round of election to take place on 9th November 2013 and to hold the second round (if required) on 16th November 2013. ECM has requested assurances from President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik that this time, election should not be disrupted by security services and to facilitate the smooth conduction of the election.

So far over seventy million Maldivian Rufiyaa has been spent on the unsuccessful attempts to hold the presidential election in the Maldives. Elections Commission of Maldives calls upon all friends of democracy to help us deliver a free, fair, transparent and inclusive presidential election as scheduled on 9th November 2013. The runoff (if required) is scheduled to take place on 16th November 2013.


“The world needs more political leaders like President Nasheed”: 350.org

Global climate justice NGO 350.org has reaffirmed that “urgent action is needed to address the climate crisis” in the Maldives, and that its continued active international leadership is “immensely important”.

In light of the IPCC’s findings and the danger sea level rise poses for the Maldives, 350.org has highlighted the essential international leadership role former President Mohamed Nasheed and the country have played for achieving climate justice.

“The IPCC’s 5th assessment report largely reaffirms what we already knew, and makes it abundantly clear that urgent action is needed the world-over. It is immensely important the Maldives to continue it’s active, leadership stance to go carbon neutral within a decade and advocate for more international action,” Will Bates, Global Campaigns Director and Co-Founder of 350.org told Minivan News.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes’s fifth assessment report emphasised the importance of human influence on the climate change system.

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased,” read the report released last month.

“As the ocean warms, and glaciers and ice sheets reduce, global mean sea level will continue to rise [during the 21st century], but at a faster rate than we have experienced over the past 40 years,” said IPCC Working Group 1 Co-Chair, Qin Dahe.

The IPCC’s report “sounds the alarm for immediate action on climate change,” declared 350.org.

“The report, which is the most authoritative, comprehensive assessment of scientific knowledge on climate change, finds with near certainty that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet and that climate impacts are accelerating… Scientists have upped the certainty that humans are responsible for warming, increasing their confidence to 95%,” highlighted 350.org.

350.org has been building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. It has coordinated over 20,000 climate demonstrations in more than 182 countries since the organisation’s founding in 2008.

350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.

“The world needs more political leaders like President Nasheed”: 350.org

Bates noted that former President Nasheed has been an integral figure for the global climate justice movement.

“President Nasheed’s courageous and creative actions to confront the true scale of the climate crisis in 2009 and 2010 were a powerful wake-up call for the world. Hearing from an entire nation about the imminent threat to their future through their democratically elected president, and seeing their actions to address the crisis was an inspiration for the rest of the world to step up our efforts to address the climate crisis,” Bates stated.

“The world needs more political leaders like President Nasheed who understand the severity of the threat, and who speak and act truthfully in response,” he added.

The NGO also believes President Nasheed’s leadership within the Maldives has benefited the nation’s domestic climate justice movement.

“I believe it was in part thanks to the openness and freedom given to civil society in general during his administration that allows young people and NGOs to organize on climate change above and beyond what President Nasheed was working on at the national policy and international levels,” said Bates.

“No doubt his efforts to have the Maldives go carbon neutral in a decade was a powerful act of leadership that more governments around the world should be following as well,” he added.

“We support human rights and a free and fair democratic process in the Maldives,” Bates noted in regard to Nasheed’s ongoing domestic efforts to ensure these values are upheld.

Although he emphasised that 350.org is not directly involved in Nasheed’s political struggles at home, Bates explained how the non-violent direct action strategy 350.org employs can benefit the Maldives in its fight for climate justice as well as democratisation.

“Social movements around the world have proven the power of non-violent direct action as a means of creating change, political and otherwise,” he said.

“President Nasheed’s underwater cabinet meeting in 2009 was a particularly creative form of action, and there are countless ways that different non-violent tactics – from marches and rallies to culture-jamming and online memes – can enhance struggles against climate change as well as for promoting democracy and fair elections,” he continued.

“We’ve seen incredibly creative actions in the Maldives by grassroots activists fighting climate change too and with such international concern for the political situation there, similar tactics could be employed at the current time with great effect,” he added.

Nasheed has often spoken of the close interrelationship between climate change, human rights, and democracy, particularly since his February 7, 2012 controversial transfer of power, and 350.org has echoed this belief.

“Human rights and climate justice are very clearly inextricably linked as the climate crisis infringes on people’s access to food, water, health, and general security. Furthermore, the causes of the climate crisis, such as the extraction and burning of fossil fuels and cutting down forests have immense human rights implications. Meanwhile many the solutions, such as more decentralized renewable energy infrastructure, are in many ways a step towards democratizing more of how our world works,” said Bates.

“Although that is not to say that countries that exist with undemocratic systems of government can’t also enact solutions to achieve greater human rights and climate justice,” he added.

Extreme sea level rise threats

“The rate of sea level rise will very likely exceed that observed during 1971–2010 due to increased ocean warming and increased loss of mass from glaciers and ice sheets,” all prospective scenarios in the IPCC’s report projected.

Sea level is expected to rise between 0.26 metres (0.85 feet) and 0.98 metres (3.22 feet) by 2100, depending on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced this century, it added.

While these projections represent the possible low and high extreme scenarios of sea level rise, small island states – such as the Maldives – are especially vulnerable, the IPCC previously stressed in it’s fourth assessment report.

With over 80 percent of the land area in the Maldives being less than a meter (3.28 feet) above mean sea level, “the slightest rise in sea level will prove extremely threatening,” UNDP Maldives previously declared. “A rise in sea levels by 0.50 meters could see significant portions of the islands being washed away by erosion or being inundated [by the ocean].”

“Even now some islands are seriously affected by loss not only of shoreline but also of houses, schools and other infrastructure,” it continued.

Not only is the Maldives extremely vulnerable to sea level rise, other climate change impacts – including extreme weather events, coral bleaching and acidification – which exacerbate these negative effects, it added.

Earlier this year the World Bank also expressed the urgent need for concerted efforts to support the Maldives in adapting to climate change due to sea level rise projections.

Additionally, the UN’s 2013 global human development report highlighted inequality and climate change vulnerabilities as major concerns for the Maldives, despite the country’s “significant economic growth” in recent years.


Elections Commission restarts polling preparations

The Elections Commission (EC) has published the eligible voters list and accepted complaints regarding the voter registry, sourced from the Department of National Registration (DNR), from 9am until 6pm today.

Voter details can be checked in the Maldives by sending an SMS to 1414 in the format ‘VIS [ID#]’, or by calling the helpline on the same number. The eligible voter list can also be checked online at www.elections.gov.mv.

The voter registry will also be availabe on every inhabited island and Male’ residents can verify their information at the Elections Commission Voter Registration Section, located in the former Godown building.

Complaints forms can be downloaded from the EC’s website and are also available at the commission’s secretariat, Voter Registration Section, and at all Island Council offices.

The Elections Commission (EC) has begun preparations for the presidential election for the fourth time in two months. The police  forcibly brought a Supreme Court-ordered re-vote to a halt on Satyrday (October 19) after previously surrounding the EC to stop the September 28 second round run-off from taking place.

Last night the EC announced the first round of presidential elections will take place November 9 and the second round – if necessary – will be held November 16.

The Supreme Court annulled the first round of presidential polls held on September 7 citing electoral fraud despite unanimous domestic and international praise over a free and fair vote. The apex court delineated 16 guidelines to hold a revote by October 20.

The commission will continue to follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines, but will seek to change them in the future, EC Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek said. In an October 20 interview on Television Maldives (TVM), he described the guidelines as “restrictions”.

The EC said that in the next three weeks it would allow registration for new eligible voters, and re-registration for those voting in a location other than their home island. Voters who re-registered for the October 19 poll will not need to submit re-registration forms again unless they wish to change their voting location.

Candidates signatures

According to the Supreme Court guidelines, the EC must obtain signatures from all candidates on the voter registry. However, the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) last week refused to approve the lists, leading police to stop the election an hour before polling was due to start.

The move has prompted widespread international concern and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protests.

However, the President, the cabinet and political parties have since assured the EC that “they will not allow for these kind of obstructions in the upcoming election”, explained Thowfeek yesterday.

EC Vice Chair Ahmed Fayaz has noted that candidates will be given a specific time period to sign the voter registry, after which the commission will continue with the election.

Thowfeek confirmed to Minivan News on October 19 that Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim had been appointed as the government’s focal point for anything election-related.

“I believe [his role] is to find agreement on the disputes between all the candidates,” Thowfeek said during an October 20 televised interview.

Voter registration process

Meanwhile, the Maldives’ Department of National Registration (DNR) has recently said there is a possibility that names of deceased people could be included in the electoral register as it “faces difficulties in obtaining information” to maintain a more current database.

However, the Supreme Court guidelines have mandated that the EC disregard its voter registry and use the DNR’s database as the primary source for the voter lists.

For the annulled first round as well as past elections, the EC compiled its voter registry by collecting current data from island council and city council offices, which was cross checked with the DNR database, and then updated after the commission publicly published the list and provided voters with an opportunity to amend any incorrect information.

“It has been very hard work over the last five years to come up with a voter registry of this standard,” Elections Commission Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek explained to Minivan News in a previous interview.

The 17 member Commonwealth election observation team in particular praised the final voter registry, describing it as “accurate and robust”.

Election obstructions

“There are a group of people who want to block this [vote], those who know they may not do well, so they are trying to buy time and make the election difficult. It’s very sad,” Thowfeek noted a week prior to the halted October 19 election.

Both the Jumhooree Party (JP) and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) filed cases with the Supreme Court on October 18 requesting that the October 19 re-scheduled election not go ahead without all parties having first signed the register.

The parties then refused to sign the registry without fingerprint verification of over 10,500 re-registration forms – PPM demanded a random 10 percent sample of forms verified, while JP wanted five percent.

Once the PPM and JP had submitted their letters to the EC after midnight on October 19, the party leaders then became unreachable, while the police refused to support the election taking place without the candidates’ signatures.

The PPM also requested the apex court order the annulment of the voters’ list used in the first round on September 7, threatening that the party would not accept the result if the existing list was used, according to local media.

This resulted in a midnight ruling from the Supreme Court on October 10, ordering the EC to disregard re-registration efforts for the annulled presidential elections, and restart the entire process with fingerprinted forms for all voters who wish to vote in a location other than their permanent address.

Prior to the first round, the PPM had called on the EC to make the voter registration process “more lenient” and requested access to the commission’s IT section.

“There is no rush”: Gasim

The PPM also sought an order at the Supreme Court on October 11 to block former President Mohamed Nasheed’s candidacy on the grounds of his criticism of the judiciary and his being “irreligious”.

Meanwhile, on October 16 the JP also raised concerns about the voter re-registration process, with the party’s representative on the EC’s National Advisory Committee accusing the MDP of being able to access the commission’s servers and directly register its own candidates – compromising the system.

The JP said it had filed a complaint with police over its allegations, demanding law enforcement officials address the concerns it had raised, according to local media.

Two days later (October 18) – on the same night JP and PPM filed cases to delay the October 19 poll – JP’s presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim stated that the party will “accept elections readily if it is conducted in accordance with the guidelines issued by the SC” and that the party was ready to proceed with voting once it was “absolutely certain that the voter registry satisfactorily meets our standards”.

There is no rush, it’s not like we are a soul caught in a life or death situation,” added Gasim.

Gasim has since called on President Mohamed Waheed to take action against Elections Commission members for allegedly violating the constitution “even by declaring a state of emergency”.

Meanwhile, an internal inquiry has been launched by the police professional standards command following allegations by EC Chair Thowfeek that Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz obstructed the EC from conducting the presidential election scheduled on October 19.

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) declared on October 19 that the police had no legal mandate to intervene and stop elections this morning, local media has reported.

Riyaz has denied the allegations, insisting that police only refused to provide security as the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court judgment were not followed by the EC.


The Maldives sits in for democracy

Non-violent sit in protests have swept through the Maldives, with thousands of citizens deprived of their constitutional right to vote determined to shut down the country until elections are held.

“We will continue to protest until we can get an election. The protests symbolise that this country has no where to go without an election. Everything has to stop, everyone has to stop and think,” MDP MP and Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News today.

Police arrived at the Elections Commission (EC) in the early morning of Saturday (October 19), forcibly preventing the scheduled election going ahead, in the apparent absence of explicit orders to do so from either the courts or the executive.

Police had also previously obstructed the run-off election which was due to be held on September 28.

Chief Superintendent Abdulla Nawaz told the press yesterday that police had “made the decision ourselves” after “seeking advice” from, among others, President Dr Mohamed Waheed and Attorney General Azima Shukoor, after the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and the Jumhooree Party (JP) had refused to sign the final voter lists.

The Supreme Court’s guidelines issued following its annulment of the September 7 election’s first round of polling said the EC was to hold elections before October 20 with the support of relevant state institutions, EC Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek has noted.

Non-violent direct action

Once the midday torrential rain abated, Maldivians nationwide spontaneously began staging non-violent sit in protests demanding that their right to vote be upheld on Saturday (October 19).

At around 2:40pm on Saturday 30 protesters gathered outside of the People’s Majlis (Parliament) in Male’, and refused to move when asked to by police.

“Who made you the voice of authority to decide all we do? You can’t tell us where to sit,” protesters told the police. “You stole our vote, we won’t let you take away everything else including our freedom”.

“I am here to ask for our constitutional right to vote,” said Hassan Shah in his early thirties, refusing to budge as a policeman prodded him from behind, asking him to leave the area.

“This country is ridiculous. There is no rule of law, there is nothing but tyranny – by the police, by an unelected coup president, by the corrupt judiciary and every other principle-less person or institute. It’s time we refused to budge. I want my right to vote,” said Ahmed Amir, 29.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters began to gather on Majeedhee Magu – Male’s main thoroughfare – in the late afternoon.

After laying down tarpaulins, people began to set up tables and chairs in the middle of the street. Whilst some played cards, presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed, Speaker of the Majlis Abdulla Shahid, and MDP MP Mariya Didi sat sipping tea and eating ‘hedika’ (traditional Maldivian snacks).

Meanwhile, a smaller crowd of about 40 people gathered on Sosun Magu – a major thoroughfare perpendicular to Majeedhee Magu – and staged a similar sit-down protest blocking traffic. Signs held my protesters read ‘Where is the voice of the citizens?’, ‘Yameen is a bodu gunda (‘big thug’)’, and ‘Hurry up the election’.

By 5pm Male’ became difficult to travel around, with police and military blocking the area around Republic Square, the Supreme Court and the President’s Office, while MDP supporters blocked traffic as their sit-down demonstration swelled in numbers, blocking more junctions.

Protesters cordoned off the streets with human chains, yellow cords, ‘joalifathi’ (traditional Maldivian seats), tables, chairs, people sprawled out on tarpaulins, and vehicles including motor bikes and trucks.

“I am embarrassed by the Supreme Court. The police are in control of this country. This is a coup. We want the Majlis members to get us our right to vote. There is no hope, but we will keep trying,” said protest participant 33 year-old artist Ahmed Khalid.

By 5:24pm, small groups of people had obstructed nearly every junction on Majeedhee Magu, with tables, with the majority concentrated near Male’ city hall listening to MPs addressing the crowd and offering their encouragement.

Shortly thereafter police attempts to drive through a Majeedhee Magu intersection failed. Protesters surrounded the vehicle, with one even laying down on the road in front of the police car, forcing it to back up and detour.

“You can’t have your way all the time, baghees (traitors),” said one protester. “This is my country too. Ride over us if you dare, or back away,” said another. “You trampled our votes. Let ‘s see if you’ll dare run over us,” said a third.

Meanwhile, a 34 year-old man at the Sosun Magu sit-down protest told Minivan News, “We are sitting in ‘joalifathi’ (traditional Maldivian seats) and blocking the road as there are no more rules according to the police. We can do anything we want now according to them.”

Speaking to supporters on Majeedhee Magu shortly before 6:00pm, former President Nasheed threatened to arrest President Mohamed Waheed, Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim and Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz. He called on his supporters to continue to block Majeedhee Magu and shut down the city of Malé.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ali Azim at the sit-down protest urged the public, “Don’t go out to work. Call your family and friends, tell them to stop work.”

Groups of demonstrators began praying on the road during evening prayer times.

By around 7pm protesters on Hulhumale’ had blocked the road to the airport and the island’s main streets, reported Hulhumalé resident Mohamed Haisham. Additionally, boat services from the island had been brought to a stop as part of ongoing peaceful action planned until a new election date is agreed. Around 200 people had gathered at the terminal on Saturday evening in order to bring internal transport to a stop.

The Male’ City Council then announced on local television that it would stop services until the people’s “fundamental right to vote, a right we get every five years” is assured. Male’ City Mayor ‘Maizan’ Ali Manik said that, whilst mosques would be looked after, services such as waste management and the issuing building and birth certificates would be stopped.

At around 9pm, peaceful sit-down protests in Male’ were in full swing, with thousands of demonstrators representing all age groups – from infants to the elderly – and all walks of life sitting, laying down, playing cards, smoking sheesha, cooking food, barbecuing and listening to music across the nearly the entire length of Majeedhee Magu.

Minivan News learned that local shopkeepers and residents had donated all the food for the demonstrators. Protesters named the hotdogs being served ‘Ali Hameed sausages’ in reference to the Supreme Court judge who has been the subject of investigations for his alleged role in a series of sex-tapes.

“We will protest as long as the current judiciary remains. We need to remove all the s**t from their ‘jangiya’ (white underpants), a 30 year-old women explained.

One protester, aged 28, also shared her distress at the election delay with Minivan News, “I’m lost, I don’t think we can trust these coup leaders – this is such a mess.”

Intermittent but heavy downpours appear not to have diminished the numbers of protesters on Majeedhee Magu, with demonstrators using their tarpaulins as umbrellas.

‘Thugs’ beat up peaceful protesters in Male’

Protests resumed with the same calm, festive atmosphere in Male’ Sunday (October 20).

However, Sunday night’s demonstration took an ugly turn after “some gangs came to make chaos” by infiltrating the MDP protesters and acting a ggressively, a 26 year-old eyewitness told Minivan News.

“It was kinda heavy last night. These guys were drunk like hell or on some kind of drug like meth or something. They came into the crowd of peaceful protesters two times,” said the source.

“The first time they beat one guy up, but sadly no one did anything to stop him, the demonstrators just said ‘be peaceful’,” he continued.

“Police didn’t showed up [to stop the protesters from being beaten] because they were having their hired gangs come to heat things up, so they can then show a reason to storm in [to the crowd],” he noted.

“These f**king police are acting like terrorists,” he exclaimed in frustration.

Shortly after these incidents occurred, Special Operations (SO) police arrived arrested five men for allegedly obstructing police while they were trying to open to the roads closed by the pro-democracy supporters.

Police have claimed the MDP supporters attacked them by hurling stones, causing one officer to seek medical treatment, according to local media.

Islanders demonstrate amidst provocation

Meanwhile, from Addu City in the far south to Kulhudhoofushi Island in the far north of the Maldives, islanders have been staging similar non-violent sit-down protests.

This direct action has included ongoing demonstrations in Kumundhoo in Haa Dhaal Atoll, Rasdhoo Island in Alif Alif Atoll, Magoodhoo Island in Faafu Atoll, and multiple islands in Laamu Atoll. Protests have also occurred in the Addu City area, Thinadhoo Island in Gaaf Dhal Atoll, and Fuvahmulah Island.

On Saturday (October 19) around 600 protesters on the island of Gan in Laamu atoll began protesting in front of the island’s province offices, explained MDP activist Naeemahtha.

“We’ve padlocked the main gates of this building which has the council offices, bank, and the majority of other service providers in it. We will not budge and do not intend to go home until we are given the right to vote,” she said.

“Police turned up and tried to take away the lorry playing campaign music but protesters wouldn’t give them a chance to do so. They’ve left without the lorry now and [as of 10pm Saturday] the protest was proceeding in full swing,” she added.

Hundreds of people from three islands of Addu Atoll have also conducted a sit down protest in the area connecting Maradhoo and Feydhoo islands, MDP MP Ahmed Adham told Minivan News.

“After a while, PPM activists we recognise turned up alongside SO officers in full riot gear with shields,” alleged Adham. “The PPM activists started throwing stones and tried to provoke us into reacting. Then SO barged into the crowd and roughed up protesters.”

Adham stated that six protesters were arrested and a number of others injured as the SO dispersed, though he noticed protests were continuing in multiple locations.

“The people are determined to continue protesting until we are granted our right to vote,” he declared.

MDP’s motivation

“Now protests have escalated [in numbers] because it is not necessarily only MDP members participating anymore. A lot of people [now] understand that the tentacles of [former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s] dictatorship are working against democracy,” explained MDP MP Ghafoor.

“The MDP is not structured like a fighting force, by default we are non-violent. Additionally, former President Mohamed Nasheed is very much an icon and he is very patient and a proponent of non-violence,” he continued.

Ghafoor explained that the demonstrators were seeking to emulate Nasheed’s patience and non-violent approach to creating change and achieving justice.

However, Ghafoor did suggest that there was a chance that, with the JP and PPM behaving like gangs, that peaceful protesters could be attacked leading to violent clashes, Ghafoor noted. “So far we’ve been able to avoid the gangs coming against us [in large numbers] because of the sheer numbers of demonstrators.”

“This is a defining moment, we can’t hold an election with the current executive [President Mohamed Waheed in power],” he declared.

“There are five rogue elements working together to stop elections from taking place: the executive, 200 key people within the MPS and MNDF security forces, the JP and PPM, as well as the judiciary,” he explained. “These five rouge elements have skewed the whole electoral process and stopped elections.”

“[Additionally] the JP and PPM are not fully formed political parties because they have not been able to compete in an election, the result is what they are doing with the Supreme Court. They used this state institution to nullify the internationally endorsed free and fair election on September 7. They don’t work like political parties, they are like gangs. The don’t understand the rules of a multi-party democracy, they don’t even understand the concept of an exit poll,” he continued.

The results of September 7 first round demonstrate that the entire country is yellow, “MDP is what is holding this nation together,” he added.

Police message to protesters

Meanwhile, the Maldives Police Service has urged anyone taking part in demonstrations across the country to show consideration to the wider public when conducting their protests.

“Since impeding on the rights of others while attempting to exercise one’s own constitutional rights is not the most responsible course of action, the Maldives Police Service strongly urges all demonstrators to not conduct themselves in such a way,” read an official statement.


United States, India, HRCM, multiple NGOs back Elections Commission, urge presidential polling to take place Saturday

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has urged political parties to support the Elections Commission to hold the presidential election tomorrow, and called on “as many Maldivian citizens as possible to go out and vote”.

The United States has called on political leaders to ensure participatory democracy is not undermined, and expressed concern about the potential postponement of Saturday’s election.

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidates have demanded fingerprint verification of the finalised voter registry, with police refusing to support the election without the candidates’ signatures. After submitting letters to the Elections Commission (EC) soon after midnight, the party’s leaders have been unreachable.

Signing of the registry by the candidates is a new demand contained in the Supreme Court’s guidelines for the election, following its annulment of the first round of polls shortly before midnight on October 7.

“The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) urges political parties to prioritise national interest and support the elections commission in this difficult moment to hold the presidential election as scheduled,” the commission declared in a press statement issued today.

“We call on as many citizens as possible to go out to vote and not to obstruct the vote,” it added.

Earlier this week the HRCM member and acting chairperson Ahmed Tholal told local media that the commission had complete confidence in the Elections Commission’s ability to conduct the upcoming presidential election freely, fairly and in a transparent manner.

Multiple Maldivian and international civil society organisations have also called for the presidential election to be held as scheduled tomorrow.

United States and India

The United States Embassy in Colombo has also expressed concern that the October 19 election may be postponed, and called on political leaders to ensure participatory democracy is not undermined in a press statement today.

“Political leaders must come together to ensure that participatory democracy is not undermined and that free, fair, credible and inclusive elections can take place peacefully and in line with international standards. Further efforts to delay the electoral process could undermine the will of the people to choose their representative,” the US Embassy stated.

“The Electoral Commission has made concerted efforts to comply with the Supreme Court’s requirements for a new first round, including the re-registration of thousands of voters,” it noted. “The United States is concerned that the re-organised first round of the Maldivian presidential election, set for October 19, may now be postponed.”

The US also highlighted the Maldives’ constitutional requirement that a new president be sworn in by November 11, 2013.

India echoed the United States’ “deep concerns” that the presidential election may be further delayed and “once again urged the government of Maldives and presidential candidates” to hold the election tomorrow and uphold the Maldives’ constitution, in a press release issued by the High Commission of India in Male’ tonight.

“We call upon all political parties to show a spirit of understanding, cooperation and accommodation by supporting the efforts for holding elections as scheduled, including by accepting the voters’ register,” stated the Indian High Commission. “Holding of free, fair and credible elections without further delay is essential for fulfilling the political aspirations of the people of Maldives.”

President Mohamed Waheed has meanwhile urged parties “not to act in a fashion that obstructs holding of the election and to prioritise national interest over personal interest”.

Transparency Maldives

Local NGO Transparency Maldives has reiterated its appeal for the presidential election to take place as scheduled.

“We have previously called for the presidential election to be held in the timeframe stipulated within the constitution,” Transparency Maldives’ Advocacy and Communications Manager Aiman Rasheed told Minivan News today.

“In resolving the rising tensions and disagreements in the country, Transparency Maldives appeals to all actors, especially the Supreme Court, to uphold the spirit of the Constitution and electoral deadlines and respect people’s electoral choice,” reads a September 28 Transparency Maldives press statement.

The NGO also previously appealed to “all actors and institutions to refrain from undermining the integrity of and confidence in the election day processes without credible evidence of fraud.”

Rasheed noted that “We have already missed two deadlines: holding a runoff election within 21 days after the first round and holding an election 30 days prior to the expiry of the existing presidential term November 11,” as stated in articles 111 and 110 of the constitution.

“The only deadline that has not been missed is holding the presidential election before October 20,” he continued.

“The Supreme Court’s verdict mandates all state institutions, including political parties, must work with the Elections Commission to ensure a free and fair election,” he explained.

“An election cannot be held without everyone joining together – civil society, political parties, media, state institutions – to support the Elections Commission,” he added.

Meanwhile, the anti-corruption NGO has stated that it is “fully ready for extensive observation of the October 19 presidential election”.

Transparency fielded a team of 400 election monitors during the first round of September 7, stating that the process was fair and credible and that incidents observed on the day would not have had a material impact on the outcome of the election.

In late August, Transparency Maldives expressed doubts over the integrity of the Supreme Court, urging it to “maintain its actions in such a fashion that the court does not allow further diminishing of its integrity and to be transparent in its functioning and sharing of information to strengthen the public trust towards the institution.”

The NGO also recently noted that the failure of parliament and the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to address alleged integrity issues of the Supreme Court judges have “created avenues for political and other actors to question the conduct, injunctions and verdicts of the Supreme Court”.

The Home Ministry this month announced that it would be investigating Transparency Maldives for challenging the Supreme Court, prompting the NGO’s international affiliate – Transparency International – to express its concern “grave concern” about staff and volunteer safety and “alarm” over the intimidation and public allegations threatening its Transparency Maldives chapter.

Maldives NGO Federation

In light of the HRCM statement, the Maldives NGO Federation, representing over 60 local civil society organisations, also reiterated its support for the Elections Commission.

“The NGO Federation of course appreciates the hard work of the Elections Commission and we fully trust in the work they are doing,” NGO Federation President Ahmed Nizam told Minivan News today.

“Given the Supreme Court’s verdict, it’s will not be very easy for the EC to go ahead and hold the election without political parties signing the voter registry. We are hopeful that the talks held tonight will help solve the issue,” he noted.

“I would like to believe that the political leaders of this country will be responsible people,” he continued. “And we stay hopeful that we will get the opportunity to exercise our constitutional right [to vote] tomorrow.”

“The EC Chairperson has said that even if the political parties sign the registry by 7:30am tomorrow morning the election can still be held,” he added.

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling to indefinitely delay the presidential election’s September 28 second round until a verdict in the JP case against the EC had been reached, the NGO expressed concern over the election delay and urged the Supreme Court to deliver a speedy verdict and to allow elections to proceed as per the constitution.

The Home Ministry subsequently demanded the NGO provide a copy of its press release regarding the Supreme Court.

The NGO Federation also recently expressed its concern that political parties have been attempting to discredit the Elections Commission by inciting hatred toward the institution in an effort to obstruct the holding of a free and fair presidential election.

The NGO Federation declared their confidence in the EC and noted the essential role the commission has played in holding free and fair elections over the past five years.

International Federation of Human Rights

International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) NGO said it is continuing to observe developments in the Maldives, and is calling for the outgoing government to ensure Maldivian people were given their right to vote in a free and fair election held in accordance with international standards.

Expressing concern about “mixed signals” being given to Maldivian people and the international community about holding an election, the international NGO said there was growing anxiety around the world for voting to be held without further delays.

FIDH said it continued to hold particular concern over the decision by the country’s Supreme Court to annul the first round of the presidential election held on September 7 – an order it claimed, in a joint statement with the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), was “unjustifiable”.

“The unjustifiable delay and judicially forceful suspension of the second round of the election, due on 28 September, indicates an encroachment of the judiciary over the powers of the Elections Commission, an independent constitutional body answerable to the Parliament of the Maldives,” read the statement from MDN and FIDH on October 8.

The statement described the court’s verdict as being founded on “materially baseless arguments”, after the first round was “applauded as a success by the international community.”

“Maldivian authorities must swiftly bring the electoral process to an end, in a free and fair manner,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji at the time.


Elections Commission unable to reach PPM and JP leaders to sign off on electoral register

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidates have demanded fingerprint verification of the finalised voter registry, with police refusing to support the election without the candidates’ signatures.

After submitting letters submitted to the Elections Commission (EC) after midnight, the party’s leaders have been unreachable.

The EC is ready to hold the re-run of the presidential election’s first round tomorrow (October 19) as soon as the candidates approve the voter registry.

The Supreme Court’s controversial annulment of the presidential election’s first round held September 7 gave the the EC less than 12 days to prepare for the repeat poll, and mandated the commission adhere to 16 guidelines, which included obtaining every presidential candidates’ signature on the finalised voter registry and having the police play a substantive role in handling the logistics and security of the election and ballot papers.

The EC has been unable to reach JP’s candidate Gasim Ibrahim or the PPM’s candidate Abdulla Yameen or their representatives to sign the lists.

The commission told a press conference this morning (October 18) that it has called, texted,  and sent officials to individual’s houses – as well as to the homes of JP representatives Umar Naseer and Hassan Shah – but has received no answer.

“We are trying our best to have the election as per the verdict of the Supreme Court,” said EC Vice Chairperson Ahmed Fayaz. “But with all the hard work of the last 11 days, now the process has almost been halted.”

“Although we’ve invited all the candidates to sign the voter registry, so far we have not been able to reach PPM and JP. However, MDP sent their representatives and signed the registry,” he noted.

Minivan News understand that certain PPM MPs have expressed their determination to prevent Saturday’s election from taking place.

“Without their signatures, the Maldives Police Service is not willing to support us. They will not give protection to conduct the election and if we hold polls it will be invalidated by the Supreme Court,” explained EC Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek.

“The police need signatures of all three candidates or their representatives [before they will allow elections officials to depart to their respective polling stations with the printed ballot papers and voter lists],” said Thowfeek.

Thowfeek noted that he had spoken to Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain about the difficulty of meeting the deadline immediately following the October 8 ruling.

“I spoke to Faiz again today about the lack of response from two candidates regarding approving the voter lists. He told me to keep trying. Send people to their homes and keep trying. He did not say what else we should do,” said Thowfeek.

Fingerprint verification demands

After midnight last night the EC received letters from the PPM and JP demanding fingerprint verification of the voter registration forms.

“PPM wants fingerprint verification of 10 percent of reregistration forms, which is over 7000 forms,” said Thowfeek.

“It will take at least 20 days,” added EC Member Ali Mohamed Manik. “PPM also asked for rejected forms to be resubmitted. PPM said they will only sign list when these requests are attended to.”

“JP’s letter asked for verification of 5 percent of forms, which is over 3500 forms,” Thowfeek continued. “Each form has four people’s fingerprints, the voter, witnesses and the bearer’s fingerprint.”

“We asked if there are any suspicious forms submitted by specific people, so we can send those forms for verfication, but neither PPM or JP has provided a list like that,” he noted.

“This is not really practical at all, even the police only have fingerprints for some people, not everyone [eligible to vote],” Thowfeek added. “The Department of National Registration (DNR) says they don’t have the technical expertise, it’s not possible [to verify fingerprints].”

“This is going to take many days. We don’t have that many days. This is the last day to finish updating the forms [with candidate’s signatures], after that there is only one day to do everything, like sending personnel and materials.”

“It is an impossible demand they are making again,” lamented Thowfeek. “I don’t know why they don’t understand we don’t have time to do all these things [and adhere to the Supreme Court’s verdict].”

“We have not yet given a deadline. By giving a deadline it may make things more difficult,” he continued. “For example, if deadline of 12:00pm is given, and they don’t sign, then it may cause problems. The EC is willing to wait until last minute for signatures.”

“Up until today, we hoped Gasim and Yameen will cooperate with us. We have very little time. There is doubt if we can proceed without solving these problems,” stated Thowfeek.

“We urge [Qasim and Yameen] to sign the lists. The election is now in their hands.”

“We want to work until the last minute. We do not want to create a hopeless situation,” he declared.

Overseas vote and party responses

“Fortunately, Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz gave his approval for us to send election officials and materials to Delhi, India this morning on the condition that the EC sign a letter stating we will not allow polling to take place without signatures of all the candidates,” explained Thowfeek. “Instead the EC will send a PDF copy of the approved registry.”

This afternoon the elections officials need to depart for evening flights to London and Singapore, Thowfeek continued. The EC may need to seek approval from Riyaz to send officials and materials to these locations under the same conditions.

“We have not yet come to a situation where we cannot hold an election. We hope now and we continue to hope that the election proceeds. We are just trying to reach the candidates and their representatives,” added Commissioner Manik.

The opposition MDP announced yesterday (October 17) that it had accepted the modified voter registry despite finding some minor irregularities contained within, to ensure the re-run of the annulled 2013 presidential election goes ahead as scheduled on Saturday (October 19).

Ghafoor accused both the PPM and JP of deliberately trying to avoid a vote without giving sufficient reasons for their reservations.

“The situation is ridiculous, they have run away from the vote,” he said.

After attempts to contact senior JP leadership, Minivan News was advised to call party Spokesman Ibrahim Khaleel whose phone was switched off at the time off press.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen told Minivan News this morning that the party still had not seen the amended voter registry, while questioning why the MDP had signed the list ahead of Saturday’s scheduled vote.

“I fail to understand the MDP’s readiness to sign the list before seeing the list,” he said today.

In a correspondence obtained by Minivan News that was sent by Yameen to Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek this morning, the PPM expressed concern that it not even seen or had the chance to verify the registry.

“Please allow us 72 hours to verify [the list] and please comply with our request to authenticate the sample specimens of thumb prints,” stated the message. Today, a PPM team will visit you and request to physically see the 71,000 re-registered forms.”


“No rest, no sleep” until deadline: EC Commissioner

Additional reporting by Mohamed Naahii

“We are very certain the election will be held as scheduled, but not everything is within our control,” Elections Commissioner (EC) Fuwad Thowfeek told a press conference tonight (October 16).

“We are giving our maximum effort to reach the deadline. No rest, no sleep, two hours [maximum]. We were working 24 hours straight, then 36, now 48. Our officials are doing everything humanly possible. International observers are even surprised [at the intensive effort put forth],” said Thowfeek.

Following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the first round of presidential elections, the EC had been given less than 12 days to prepare for the repeat poll – scheduled to take place this Saturday (October 19).

The commission has said it normally requires 45-60 days of preparation to hold a presidential election in accordance with the Maldives’ constitution and general elections law.

The Supreme Court’s verdict delineated 16 guidelines the EC must follow in holding a new round of polling before October 20, including using the DNR’s database as the “main source to determine eligible voters”.

Currently, the commission is primarily working on processing voter re-registration forms and entering the information into its database, Thowfeek explained.

With the commission not yet having completed the process, it has extended its complaints filing deadline to 2:ooam.

“We are receiving complaints and will correct the mistakes based on the voter re-registration forms,” said EC Commission Member Ali Mohamed Manik. “The problem is that a large number of people want to be registered to vote at different locations [other than their home islands].”

Whether the EC can finish processing the re-registration forms by its goal of tomorrow morning has not yet been confirmed.

Deadline looms

Thus far, 56,243 forms have been processed and the EC expects over 60,000 people to have re-registered – leaving approximately 10,000 forms remaining. After this process is finished, the commission hopes to begin printing the final voter registry tomorrow morning.

The EC has already provided political parties with the voter lists and will give them the finalized voter registry once it is completed.

“We hope the candidates will sign the voter registry, as responsible people. If they don’t then we will determine what to do at that point in time,” said Thowfeek. “We do not know what to say if they do not sign the registry. We don’t know whether the election can be held or not if that occurs.”

Meanwhile, the EC has completed printing the ballot papers – with candidate number two, President Mohamed Waheed having been removed – and is in the process of verifying and checking the ballots.

However, the commission cannot seal the ballots for transportation until after the voter registry has been finalised.

Additionally, all the elections officials have been selected and trained, however they cannot be sent to the polling station locations until the voter list is finalized, noted EC Secretary General Asim Abdul Sattar.

The EC is aiming for officials to depart to polling station locations on the islands tomorrow.

“If elections officials do not leave for London tomorrow night, there will be no ballots in London,” said Manik.

“For example, it would be really strange if you were asked to build a 10 story building in 10 days and then hand over the keys, but such a thing we are doing,” he continued. “This is not something we have ever experienced, we apologise for everything.”

“Last time we formed a timetable and followed it, but now we have minimal time, so we are trying to finish things as fast as we can,” he noted. “We are doing everything as per the Supreme Court guidelines.

“We need to consider the ongoing Cambridge O’Level examinations – that is also why we will hold the election Saturday,” he continued.

Ongoing challenges

The EC noted that the holiday period had made their task even more difficult.

“Some temporary officials took leave for Hajj and Eid, however we cannot hire new staff because it each person requires two hours of training,” said Thowfeek.

“The government is giving a lot of assistance, which is the only reason the EC can keep going,” he noted. “We are working around the clock to hold the election on October 19.”

The Department of National Registration (DNR) provided the EC with the details of their database, however they have since amended some of the information and still need to provide their updated registry to the commission, explained Manik. We are still talking with the DNR to resolve the issue.

He also noted that the EC is working with the DNR to verify individuals’ records and address complaints the commission has received.

“For example, according to the DNR, Moomina Haleem [the country’s first female cabinet minister] is deceased, however we met with her and determined it was actually her husband that died. So we have to make sure people like Moomina Haleem do not lose their right to vote, explained Thowfeek.

“Now an individual can only cast their vote if all their personal information is correct [in accordance with the DNR’s database,” he noted.

Today the DNR admitted it had “faced difficulties in obtaining information on people who have passed away abroad”.

“We are following the Supreme Court guidelines; we are doing everything as they’ve said,” Thowfeek emphasised. “We will take action against those who conduct fraud.”

“By the will of Allah we will do everything we can to hold the election on October 19,” he added.