Maldives former 30 year autocratic leader, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has said that the Elections Commission (EC) has not prepared itself to the necessary standards to hold the presidential election scheduled for September 7.
Previously, Gayoom’s party Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has raised several concerns over the EC that include the involvement of Indian IT specialists handling its database, the wife of the Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek being an outspoken Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporter, and “politicised tweets” by the commission’s Legal Director Haneefa Khalid.
In an interview given to Minivan News this week, Thowfeek revealed that the PPM had requested access to the commission’s IT section.
The PPM denied the accusation but did reiterate their concern over expat IT experts working in the commission.
“We are still quite uncertain and unsure why these people are here at this time,” said PPM MP Ahmed Nihan.
Thowfeek meanwhile told the local media this week that the commission’s internet server was continuously being attacked by hackers from both within the country and outside.
“Our server is continuously being attacked… For that reason, our IT team is continuously monitoring the server and blocking these attacks round the clock. I assure that our data is still safe and protected. There are no imminent threats of a security breach,” Fuwad told Haveeru.
Gayoom – who was on his way to Gaaf Dhaal Atoll to campaign for PPM’s Presidential Candidate Abdulla Yameen – told the media shortly before departing on Wednesday that it was critical that the EC address the issues raised by political parties.
The former president elaborated that the stability of the country relied heavily upon the freedom and fairness of the upcoming presidential elections, and that therefore it was imperative for the EC to carry out its duties in an open and transparent manner.
“We are seeing problems within the framework they have established. Other parties have even noted that. We are not, by any means, saying that they are doing things wrong. But instead, we are saying that we don’t see the Elections Commission making necessary arrangements for the presidential elections in an adequate and proper way,” Gayoom said.
Gayoom, who faced defeat at the hands of Mohamed Nasheed – now the opposition MDP’s Presidential Candidate – in the 2008 presidential elections, said that despite the days leading up to the elections being few, there “is still time to make amends”.
Speaking about PPM’s Presidential Candidate Yameen – also Gayoom’s half brother – the former president said that he had high hopes that Yameen would secure an election victory from the first round without needing to go into a run-off election.
Should the party not be able to win the election in the first round, Gayoom expressed confidence that PPM would still secure the election victory with the support of political parties who would ally with the PPM.
“We want to win this election in a way that will benefit the whole country, even if it means forming a coalition with other political parties. We are a party that had previously worked with other parties,” Gayoom said.
Thowfeek today defended the commission against Gayoom’s claims, contending that the it was “fully prepared” to hold next month’s poll.
“If he had said this in 2008, yes, we may have not been very prepared. But I don’t think anyone has the chance to say that now. In 2008, the interim Elections Commission was formed and the Elections were held in the next month. But it is not the case now,” Thowfeek said.
Thowfeek also reiterated that the commission had successfully held the local council elections in 2010, which was far more complex than a presidential election.
“Unlike the local council elections, in a presidential election, only one common ballot paper is used throughout the country. In 2010, there were separate ballot papers for 19 atoll councils, 2 city councils, and for all island councils,” Thowfeek explained.
He also said that, like any other institution, the EC would also examine matters that could be reformed but assured that it had no serious concerns regarding the facilitation of September’s poll in a free and fair manner.
He added that the commission was addressing the issues raised by the PPM and said that it would hold a presentation session with all political parties regarding the IT system in use.
“With all the resources we have, I think we are doing exceptionally well. We will continue to address issues raised regarding the elections.”