Candidates for Villingili and Mahibadhoo constituency seek to invalidate elections

Candidates who unsuccessfully contested for Majlis seats in Gaafu Alifu and Alifu Dhaalu atolls have filed cases at the High Court to invalidate the election results of those constituencies.

According to local media, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate for Gaafu Alifu Villingili constituency Haroon Rasheed and Jumhooree Party (JP) candidate for Mahibadhoo constituency Ahmed Sunil filed the cases today.

Mahibadhoo constituency was won by independent candidate Ahmed Thariq ‘Tom’ – who has since joined Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) – while the Villingili constituency was won by PPM candidate Mohamed Saud.

The High Court has accepted cases concerning electoral issues for eight constituencies so far.

Candidates who contested for Mid-Hithadhoo, Naifaru, Shaviyani Funadhoo, Thimarafushi, Kurendhoo, and Nolhivaram have also filed cases with the High Court.

These initial results in these constituencies returned two progressive coalition MPs-elect – one JP and one PPM, one independent candidate, and three MDP representatives, although this includes Thimarafushi’s Mohamed Musthafa who defected to the PPM within 10 days of the poll.

The court has started the hearings concerning the Funadhoo, Hithadhoo-Mid, and Kurendhoo constituencies.

The High Court has today concluded hearings into the Mid-Hithadhoo case, saying that if the court does not need to further study the case or question witnesses during the next hearing it will deliver a verdict.

PPM candidate in Mid-Hithadhoo Ibrahim ‘Hiyaaly’ Rasheed, who filed the case, has asked the High Court for police intelligence regarding the bribery allegations he has made.

Rasheed’s lawyer has submitted the names of 10 witnesses to prove his client’s allegations that there was bribery involved in the parliamentary elections.

MDP candidate for Shaviyani Funadhoo constituency Abbas Mohamed, who lost the seat to PPM candidate Ali Saleem, has alleged that the ballot box kept in Shaviyani atoll Magoodhoo was closed after the time specified by the Elections Commission (EC).

He alleged that election officials started counting the Magoodhoo ballot box after the EC had announced the preliminary results, questioning the validity of the poll.

Abbas also said that PPM candidate Saleem had campaigned after the campaigning time was up by throwing flyers and posters around the islands.

He alleged that Saleem had bribed people in the day of election and that his complaints – filed with the EC complaints bureau – were not considered.

Saleem won the seat by 930 votes while MDP candidate got 855 votes.

Following the election, the EC revealed that a total of 115 complaints were submitted in writing to the national complaints bureau, including 18 concerning the voter registry and 33 complaints regarding negative campaigning, the behaviour of election officials, and campaigning during polling hours.

In its preliminary statement on the parliament elections, local NGO ransparency Maldives (TM) said elections were well-administered and transparent “but wider issues of money politics threatens to hijack [the] democratic process”.

TM revealed that a survey conducted prior to last year’s presidential election showed that 15 percent of respondents had been offered “money or other incentives” in exchange for their vote.

“Admissions about illegal activities such as this are usually underreported in surveys. TM’s long-term observation indicates that vote buying may be even more widespread in the parliamentary elections than other elections,” the statement read.

“Inability of state institutions to prosecute vote buying due to gaps in the electoral legal framework, lack of coordination, and buck-passing between the relevant institutions have allowed rampant vote buying to go unchecked.”