The Elections Commission (EC) has said it has complied with all guidelines issued by the Supreme Court following its annulment of the September 7 election, and is confident it will be prepared for the presidential election this Saturday October 19.
In compliance with the guidelines the EC said it had collaborated with 28 state institutions, particularly the police, Department of National Registration (DNR) and National Centre for Information Technology (NCIT), and was currently processing complaints received regarding the recompiled the voters list based on the DNR’s registry.
New ballot boxes had been introduced for the Male municipality, while all elections officials had been vetted and retrained according to the Supreme Court’s guidelines. New security features had been included on the ballot papers while the NCIT had advised the commission on its database.
Media would be allowed to use reporting equipment to cover the election following the Supreme Court’s supplemental ruling on October 12.
“Most of the work is done. What remains is [parties] approving the voter registry, and sending off ballot boxes and papers,” said EC member Ali Mohamed Manik during a press conference on Thursday evening.
“The most difficult challenge has been the time limit. We don’t have enough time to attend to everything as much as we would like to. It has been difficult for us and the public,” EC President Fuad Thowfeek said.
Following the Supreme Court’s midnight ruling on October 10 ordering the EC to redo the entire voter re-registration process, the commission received 70,000 re-registration forms in just a 24-hour period from voters wishing to vote a location other than their home island. 65,000 voters re-registered ahead of the annulled September 7 poll.
The election will involve 476 ballot boxes and 1500 voter lists, each between 15-20 pages long. Overseas lists will be prioritised, so that ballot boxes and papers can be shipped to locations on Friday morning. Police will provide security to local locations.
Most complaints received by the commission involved people being registered at locations other than those requested during re-registration, while some forms were rejected due to incomplete information.
“As soon as the database is clean and complaints are attended to, we will print the lists. We will invite candidate’s representatives to put their fingerprints and signatures,” Thowfeek said.
Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has already accepted the new list, noting that while the margin of error was higher at 0.61 percent, this was still “negligible”.
The party noted that the revised voter registry is based on the Department of National Registration (DNR)’s registry and lists 239,198 eligible voters, 395 fewer than the 239,593 in the annulled September 7 polls that saw an 88 percent voter turnout.
“When the voter list of 7 September 2013 compiled by the Election Commission is compared with the 19 October 2013 voter list compiled by the Election Commission with the Department of National Registration as its source, we find that there an additional 2258 ID cards,” the MDP noted in a statement today.
The MDP counted 62 people on the list as doubled or repeated, 0.03 percent of eligible voters, while 789 individuals turned 18 years of age between 7 September 2013 and 19 October 2013 and became eligible to vote.
“When the 789 children who turned 18 are subtracted from the additional ID cards (2,258) on the eligible voters list for 19 October 2013, we note that 1,469 persons have been added to the voters list in unclear circumstances. That is 0.61% of eligible voters,” the party noted.
“Despite noting the aforementioned matters, since the margin of error (0.61%) is negligible and because the Constitution of the Maldives states that there must be an elected President on 11 November 2013, the MDP has decided to accept the list and go ahead with the Presidential Election scheduled to be held on 19 October 2013.
“We believe the voter registry is correct and we are ready to vote with that list. If an election is not held on October 19, and a new president is not elected by [the end of the presidential term] November 11, we lose the constitution,” said former President Nasheed.
Jumhoree Party (JP) candidate Gasim Ibrahim said this afternoon that the party would verify the list as soon it was received.
“We do not have any intention to delay the election,” Gasim said, stating that there was no reason why the election should not be held on Saturday.
Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) Deputy Leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla said the party would ask the Elections Commission for 72 hours to check the registry, although the EC said during the press conference that it had not received such a request.
“We want the election to be held on the 19th, but with [the Supreme Court guidelines] completed. I do not believe it is possible for all candidates to sign a 10,000 page voter registry and hand over to the Elections Commission by sunset. The election cannot be held as per the Supreme verdict unless that list is handed over,” Raheem stated.
MDP candidate Nasheed tweeted: “Once I receive the voter lists for each ballot box, it will not take me more than two hours for me to check and sign it.”
Elections Commission Fuwad Thowfeek said candidates were expected to sign each booklet, not every single page.
“I hope after so much work by the Elections Commission and the people of the country, candidates will sign it. They have seen how much work we have done and how much the public wants a vote,” said Thowfeek.
The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has meanwhile appealed to all eligible voters to take “individual responsibility” that the information on the voter registry was same as that on their identity cards, passports and licences.
“Voting is one of the most important opportunities in public participation in governance in a democracy. Use this right with independence, and without influence,” HRCM stated, calling on all political parties to support a successful election and not obstruct the voting process.
The President’s Office issued a statement ordering the Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure the relevant institutions under the Ministry of Home Affairs “conduct matters relating to the first round of presidential elections to be held on 19 October 2013, freely and fairly as per the guidelines delineated by the Supreme Court.”
The JP, PPM and MDP were meanwhile holding rallies tonight ahead of the final day of campaigning.