The Maldives Police Service has said that it has so far received no reports of major violence during the country’s first local council elections taking place today, despite fears about potential clashes between rival supporters from authorities and several NGOs.
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that despite “little misunderstandings” at some island-based polling stations, there had been no major clashes reported during the last few days.
“There have not been much [elections] violence so far today, yesterday or the day before that,” he said. “We are trying to work with the Elections Commission (EC) in regards to any problems, though there hasn’t been much confrontation.”
The claims were made as one local NGO, the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), reported that it has received “a concerning number” of reports of election-related violence in the three weeks running up to today’s local council elections, as it aims to compile a report on the role violence has played during campaigning.
During polling time itself, Shiyam said that certain “misunderstandings” had been reported to have occurred at some ballot boxes, where confusion had arose over whether one constituent was able to correctly see how he would be casting his vote.
“As someone was casing their vote, allegations were made that the constituent in question was blind, while others denied there was a problem,” he said.
As part of a UN Development Programme (UNDP) funded initiative aimed to try and systematically record instances of violence relating around the elections – both before and during polling –the MDN has said that it hopes to put forward measures to mitigate major violence and disturbances in future elections.
MDN Executive Director Ahmed Irfan told Minivan News that it would not be revealing specific instances of violence recorded by the report concerning the involvement of specific parties or individuals until after the local council elections had taken place.
Irfan claimed that the report would use accounts from both witnesses and the authorities to try and produce an in-depth account of violence surrounding the council elections.
“We’re doing a number of things such as sending people around the islands to get second hand accounts of the violence, while also consulting with police and the Elections Commission,” he said.
Irfan added that he believed that political groups had so far been “entirely open” in discussing the role of violence during the current campaign.
“We feel the [report] process has been entirely open and have already met with some parties for feedback,” he said.
Irfan claimed that the group will be going back to parties to see if there are any additional cases of election-time violence once voting has concluded.
“It is MDN’s most fervent hope that the elections on February 5, 2011 will be held in a peaceful, free and fair manner in which everyone can exercise their constitutional right to vote, free from fear and intimidation,” the MDN stated. “This can only be achieved with the sincere support and cooperation of all those involved.”
Reiterating similar concerns about election violence, the police last week called on the country’s politicians to curb rhetoric that could stir up violence, after allegations that a group with allegiances to the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has attacked Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MPs on the island of Kaandehdhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll.
The MDP denied that any of its members were involved in the confrontations.