The Elections Commission has dismissed as “baseless” the Jumhoree Party’s (JP’s) allegations of vote rigging, pointing to the commission’s transparency, ongoing complaints investigations, and praise from a broad spectrum of election observers.
While local and international election observers have praised the conduct of Saturday’s (September 7) presidential elections, JP presidential candidate Gasim Ibrahim, who was placed third in Saturday’s vote with 24 percent, has contested the results and accused the EC of tampering with the outcome.
Hours ahead of a delayed EC briefing to unveil the provisional election results, which tool place in the early morning hours of Sunday (September 8), a small group of JP supporters demonstrated outside the Dharubaruge convention centre alleging a 10,000 vote discrepancy.
On Monday (September 9), Gasim claimed 20,000 unlawful votes had been cast, while the former deputy leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Umar Naseer – who backed Gasim in the poll – accused the EC of giving Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members 30,000 additional ballot papers to tamper with the outcome of the election.
“The allegations by the Jumhoree Party are wasting our time actually. They don’t understand democracy or how to accept defeat, it’s a very unfortunate thing,” EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News yesterday (September 10).
“People who cannot accept defeat should not face an election,” he continued. “It’s a contest so there’s a chance they will win or lose. In this case there were four contestants and only two could advance to the second round. Gasim Ibrahim doesn’t understand [this] and his followers are making a fool out of him,” he contended.
“Gasim wants to tell people that he has more than 50,000 supporters, but the 50,422 [who voted for him] are his real support, he should be grateful to the people who voted for him. There is no way he’s going to find any more, even if a recount is conducted,” he added.
Thowfeek expressed confidence that Maldivians would understand that the JP’s allegations are “baseless”.
“They are just making all these false and fake allegations, there is no truth in anything they are saying and the public will know it is all lies,” stated Thowfeek. “No person who knows the [Elections Commission] system will believe any part. [Particularly] people who know me professionally and personally. A small child would not believe what they are talking about.”
The EC Chair explained that he has been in contact with Gasim and the JP and addressed their concerns.
“Gasim Ibrahim called me Monday (September 9) and I explained all the details to him. I also spoke very clearly to [MP Ahmed] Ilham when he came to meet on September 7,” said Thowfeek.
“Everything has been so transparent and we have readily provided all the results and what the JP has asked for, including soft copies [of results sheets from all 470 ballot boxes],” he noted.
“The only thing we cannot by law release is the list of who did and did not vote. The list contains confidential personal information – full names, dates of birth, ID card numbers – and can only be released with a court order,” he added.
Yesterday the High Court rejected a case filed by the JP seeking the release of the voters list and result sheets from the EC.
Speaking at a JP rally last night, Umar Naseer reportedly said the case would be resubmitted to the High Court today.
He said that it was dismissed due to “technical issues” as the court required additional information to be cleared from the EC before it could hear the case.
The JP is seeking the voters list to identify the number of allegedly “fraudulent votes” and determine if it could change the outcome of the election, Naseer said.
“We are certain that 95,000 people in the Maldives will not vote for Nasheed,” he was quoted as saying by newspaper Haveeru.
The JP coalition has so far learned that 1,188 people had been registered in homes without the knowledge of the owner while the names of 173 voters were repeated or doubled on the voters list, and the names of 569 deceased were also on the gazetted registry, Naseer claimed.
Thowfeek meanwhile appealed for international and domestic scrutiny of the EC to ensure transparency and public confidence.
“The EC would appreciate if international and local observers continued to keep a close watch on EC and voting activities to see how everything proceeds,” Thowfeek said.
He believes their monitoring will continue to demonstrate the transparent work of the EC because “after the second round result we don’t know what type of [inaccurate] talk will come out.”
“We met with international observers on September 8th and they were very pleased about what they had seen and noted [of the election process],” said Thowfeek. “There were many observers from various countries – the Commonwealth, EU, US, UK, Australia, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, and India – and everybody praised the work we have done.”
Complaints investigation proceeding
The EC’s complaints investigation process is ongoing and will be completed “as soon as possible, probably by the end of this week,” Thowfeek said.
“The Complaints Bureau is attending to all complaints, and replies have [already] been sent to most of the complainants,” he said.
“There are some cases that may [be] prolonged because [identifying and speaking with] additional witness takes time, but these issues will be addressed before the next round [of the presidential election process],” he continued.
The discrepancies which the JP have alleged include: double voting, votes cast in the name of people who died prior to the election, inaccurate voter registry, lack of transparency during ballot counting, election officials being biased and aligning themselves towards MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed and Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen.
“With [election] officials from different sources [working] in front of [election] observers, there was no way the type of fraud [JP is alleging] could be made,” said Thowfeek.
“Polling station officials were not all from the EC. We hired various officers from public sector organisations, as well as young people looking for work,” he noted.
“Every ballot box had a combination of all types of individuals, selected at random, and a balance was kept between females and males, young and old,” he explained. “Many met for the first time during training or [polling station] duty. All the people belonging to [and responsible for] each ballot box were not trained together [as a group].”
Thowfeek also addressed the voter registry concerns raised by the JP – and previously raised by the PPM prior to elections.
“The voter’s list was published two weeks before voting and the lists were [also] sent to all ballot box locations in addition to EC officials, presidential candidate representatives, observers from each political party,” said Thowfeek. “Anyone who has this [list] will know that they will not be able to show a single person who voted under a false name.”
He explained that the EC obtained the voter registration lists from island council offices as well as the Male’ municipality office. This data was compiled and the lists cross-checked with the Department of National Registration to verify its accuracy.
Thowfeek also emphasised that many individuals are not aware or are misunderstanding the Male’ Dhaftharu – a special registry for people who are Male’ residents, but are from other islands – registration process.
“In the past people were placed on the Dhaftharu with the municipal council [listed as their residence], but this time they put the places where they live,” said Thowfeek.
“7,000 people were registered on the Dhaftharu using the places they were residing at the time. Some people asked why add these names to a particular house [for voter registration] because these people were [previously] registered under the municipal list,” he continued.
“These individuals are originally from different islands, but if they live in Male’ over five years they are eligible for Male’ residency, however many don’t own a home in Male’, they rent or stay with relatives,” he noted.
“They are Maldivian citizens [from the islands] residing in Male’ but they don’t have a permanent residence – they have the right to vote,” he declared.
“In front of all those people – as well as election monitors and observers – there is no way anyone can do any sort of mischief,” he concluded.
During the September 8 early morning press conference, Vice Chair Fayaz addressed vote counting issues that resulted in police intervention at Majeedia and Amadiya Schools in Male’.
“One of the very important steps we will be taking is to replace such heads of polling stations. In the next round of elections we will not appoint such people as heads,” he said.
“The [vote] counting was done properly, but what was lacking was the polling station head not showing the ballot papers to the observers the way they wanted,” he continued.
“According to the figures revealed by Transparency Maldives there were monitors at observers in 80 percent of polling stations. We cannot force the observers to go and observe, it is something that they [must take the initiative to] do,” he noted.
“Counting is the most critical phase, sometimes during this phase there is a tendency where some monitors/observers try to intervene in the process, in such a case unless the police are in the vicinity, they cannot immediately help,” he emphasised. “That’s why you may have seen in some polling stations the police presence.”