The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has confirmed it is investigating President Mohamed Waheed’s Gaumee Ihthihad Party (GIP) over allegations the party used state records to fill out membership forms in an effort to bulk up its numbers.
The party has denied the allegations, with Haveeru citing a GIP official as insisting: “we got members to sign for our party by taking to the streets of Male’ and visiting the islets. People are leveling various allegations because we managed to reach 10,000 members at the last minute.”
GIP spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.
Party membership is not necessarily a reflection of voting support in the Maldives. However, with the introduction of the recent political parties bill, parties are required to have a minimum membership of 10,000 to be formally recognised by the Elections Commission (EC) and receive state funding.
The passage of the bill earlier this year – passed by a parliament largely controlled by the country’s three largest political parties – left small parties with little parliamentary representation such as GIP, the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP), Adhaalath Party (AP) and the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) facing potential dissolution.
Of these parties, only the AP was able to obtain the required membership before the bill came into effect. The fate of the others was put on hold following a Supreme Court injunction, while they sought to reach the required membership.
The Elections Commission has meanwhile expressed concerns about fraudulent membership forms being submitted.
Use of state resources
Transparency Maldives has called for police, the EC, ACC and Prosecutor General’s Office to create an “interagency taskforce” to tackle election issues such as the misuse of state resources.
Senior Project Coordinator Azim Zahir said while a party such as GIP was in the spotlight due to their connection with the incumbent president, attention was also required at local council level.
“It’s not just trips made by a President [before an election]. During our pre-election assessment we met local councils who told us police transport was being used by candidates of certain political parties,” he noted, citing one example.
Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim told newspaper Haveeru last week that President Waheed’s visits to islands and pledging of infrastructure projects could be considered campaigning at the state’s expense.
As Niyaz believed public funds and resources should not be used for campaigning, the Auditor General’s Office was in the process of drafting campaign finance rules to distinguish official visits from campaign trips.
The recommendations would be based on the American model, he added, and shared with the President’s Office and parliamentary committees.
Under this model, the president would be advised to announce campaign trips in advance and reimburse the office for expenses incurred during unofficial trips.
A formula would be recommended to identify unofficial components of official trips, Niyaz explained.
“The main purpose of these rules is to recover the cost of unofficial trips. We are looking to make the rules public along with the President’s Office audit report,” he was was quoted as saying at the time.
The Elections Commission has meanwhile told local media that the commission was powerless to prevent political activities outside the official campaigning period of 120 days prior to the election.
“After the announcement of the presidential election, we will take all necessary action within the authority and powers of the commission. Compliance bureaus will be established and officials of the commission will be deployed to every island in which voting will take place. According to the law, political activities conducted before that cannot be stopped,” Vice President of the EC Ahmed Fayaz told Sun Online.
Transparency Maldives Project Coordinator Zahir stated however that major parties had already begun campaigning, and noted that the US model provided for an ‘informal’ campaigning period ahead of the official period.