The Elections Commission (EC) has said it has been forced to delay the publication of an amended voter registry for September’s presidential election as a result of the number of complaints filed by the public.
The amended list of voters was originally due to have been published today in the government gazette.
EC Vice President Ahmed Fayaz said that despite the delay, the commission was in “full swing” with its preparations for the presidential election scheduled for September 7. He added that the commission was presently working to address a number of concerns, including assuring that the legitimate electorate were not deprived of their right to vote due to preventable issues.
According to the latest EC records, the electorate presently consists of 240,302 individuals – 31,008 more voters than the number of participants in the 2008 presidential election.
The statistics indicate that 123,565 males and 116,737 females are presently eligible to vote on September 7.
Voter registry to be “hopefully complete by week’s end”
Thaufeeq informed local media that the commission had received 2,790 complaints based on the initial voter registry, adding that verifying these complaints had proved to be highly time consuming.
“When we are verifying complaints about deceased people being listed in the voter registry, sometimes we need to actually send staff to the addresses in question to carry out verification of the claims. It’s this verification process that is taking up time,” he was quoted as saying.
Thaufeeq stated that with the commission’s staff working day and night to complete the required amendments to the voter registry, he remained hopeful that the final list would be published by the end of the week.
Thaufeeq further called on citizens and political parties to extend their cooperation in checking whether the amended list had addressed the previously lodged complaints.
“It is also very important that each individual checks the voter registry within five days after it is published to ensure that their details are correctly included in it,” he continued.
Previously, EC President Thaufeeq stated that the commission was confident the voter registry would be completed by a deadline of June 14.
He said at the time that the amendment of the voter registry had gone “better than expected”, despite challenges remaining in notifying all the complainants about the changes made to the list, as is required according to regulations.
The EC said it estimated approximately 500 ballot boxes would need to be set up for the vote on September 7.
“As per our current estimate, 495 ballot boxes will need to be set up countrywide, but that number may still increase,” Thaufeeq was quoted as telling local media.
According to the existing EC plans, 122 ballot boxes will be placed in Male’ City: 48 for citizens registered in Male’, and an additional 74 for citizens registered in other islands who live in Male’. While ballot boxes are to be placed in other inhabited islands, 55 tourist resorts will also have polling booths stationed in them.
Resorts which do not have a minimum of 50 eligible voters working in it will not have a dedicated polling booth. Instead, the Elections Commission is appealing to management of such resorts to allow staff to travel to the nearest island to place their votes.
Additionally, all jails and detention centres in the country will have ballot boxes, as well as other nations which have a minimum of 100 Maldivian citizens living in them. These countries are said to include India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the UK.
Concerns pending solutions
EC Vice President Ahmed Fayaz has however expressed concern that the identity cards of hundreds of inmates will have expired prior to voting day.
“We have been discussing the issue with them. The renewal of identity card requires a fee to be paid, and the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services have told us that they do not have sufficient funds to carry out ID renewals for the inmates,” Fayaz said.
“In the end, the only viable solution is for the concerned state authorities to find a solution for this,” he said.
Political parties contesting in the upcoming election have previously spoken to Minivan News about their respective concerns over registration and identity card renewal ahead of the vote.
Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s Membership and Campaign Committee member Ahmed Shahid spoke of such concerns, alleging that based on the current situation, “it doesn’t seem as though the state is really trying to solve the issues prior to the elections”.
“From the information we have gathered, we understand that approximately 40,000 identity cards will expire before September 7. According to the the information we have, the Department of National Registration has the capacity to issue about 350 or so cards a day. This suggests that the 40,000 people from the electorate will not all be able to get the cards renewed before the elections,” Shahid said at the time.
Earlier this month, Government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan said the party was continuing to come across issues within the recently published election registry due to incorrect information and the inclusion of voters now believed to be deceased.
He said that with an estimated third of the population also having moved from their home islands to the capital in recent years, correct registration would be another vital issue in the lead up to September.
Nihan claimed the EC therefore “has a lot of work to do” in the lead up to September to ensure its database of registered voters was both up-to-date and correct.
“The government also has to try and provide the funds for the EC and also participate with international stakeholders to get the assistance to ensure elections are free and fair,” he said.