The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhooree Party (JP) presidential candidates have demanded fingerprint verification of the finalised voter registry, with police refusing to support the election without the candidates’ signatures.
After submitting letters submitted to the Elections Commission (EC) after midnight, the party’s leaders have been unreachable.
The EC is ready to hold the re-run of the presidential election’s first round tomorrow (October 19) as soon as the candidates approve the voter registry.
The Supreme Court’s controversial annulment of the presidential election’s first round held September 7 gave the the EC less than 12 days to prepare for the repeat poll, and mandated the commission adhere to 16 guidelines, which included obtaining every presidential candidates’ signature on the finalised voter registry and having the police play a substantive role in handling the logistics and security of the election and ballot papers.
The EC has been unable to reach JP’s candidate Gasim Ibrahim or the PPM’s candidate Abdulla Yameen or their representatives to sign the lists.
The commission told a press conference this morning (October 18) that it has called, texted, and sent officials to individual’s houses – as well as to the homes of JP representatives Umar Naseer and Hassan Shah – but has received no answer.
“We are trying our best to have the election as per the verdict of the Supreme Court,” said EC Vice Chairperson Ahmed Fayaz. “But with all the hard work of the last 11 days, now the process has almost been halted.”
“Although we’ve invited all the candidates to sign the voter registry, so far we have not been able to reach PPM and JP. However, MDP sent their representatives and signed the registry,” he noted.
Minivan News understand that certain PPM MPs have expressed their determination to prevent Saturday’s election from taking place.
“Without their signatures, the Maldives Police Service is not willing to support us. They will not give protection to conduct the election and if we hold polls it will be invalidated by the Supreme Court,” explained EC Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek.
“The police need signatures of all three candidates or their representatives [before they will allow elections officials to depart to their respective polling stations with the printed ballot papers and voter lists],” said Thowfeek.
Thowfeek noted that he had spoken to Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain about the difficulty of meeting the deadline immediately following the October 8 ruling.
“I spoke to Faiz again today about the lack of response from two candidates regarding approving the voter lists. He told me to keep trying. Send people to their homes and keep trying. He did not say what else we should do,” said Thowfeek.
Fingerprint verification demands
After midnight last night the EC received letters from the PPM and JP demanding fingerprint verification of the voter registration forms.
“PPM wants fingerprint verification of 10 percent of reregistration forms, which is over 7000 forms,” said Thowfeek.
“It will take at least 20 days,” added EC Member Ali Mohamed Manik. “PPM also asked for rejected forms to be resubmitted. PPM said they will only sign list when these requests are attended to.”
“JP’s letter asked for verification of 5 percent of forms, which is over 3500 forms,” Thowfeek continued. “Each form has four people’s fingerprints, the voter, witnesses and the bearer’s fingerprint.”
“We asked if there are any suspicious forms submitted by specific people, so we can send those forms for verfication, but neither PPM or JP has provided a list like that,” he noted.
“This is not really practical at all, even the police only have fingerprints for some people, not everyone [eligible to vote],” Thowfeek added. “The Department of National Registration (DNR) says they don’t have the technical expertise, it’s not possible [to verify fingerprints].”
“This is going to take many days. We don’t have that many days. This is the last day to finish updating the forms [with candidate’s signatures], after that there is only one day to do everything, like sending personnel and materials.”
“It is an impossible demand they are making again,” lamented Thowfeek. “I don’t know why they don’t understand we don’t have time to do all these things [and adhere to the Supreme Court’s verdict].”
“We have not yet given a deadline. By giving a deadline it may make things more difficult,” he continued. “For example, if deadline of 12:00pm is given, and they don’t sign, then it may cause problems. The EC is willing to wait until last minute for signatures.”
“Up until today, we hoped Gasim and Yameen will cooperate with us. We have very little time. There is doubt if we can proceed without solving these problems,” stated Thowfeek.
“We urge [Qasim and Yameen] to sign the lists. The election is now in their hands.”
“We want to work until the last minute. We do not want to create a hopeless situation,” he declared.
Overseas vote and party responses
“Fortunately, Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz gave his approval for us to send election officials and materials to Delhi, India this morning on the condition that the EC sign a letter stating we will not allow polling to take place without signatures of all the candidates,” explained Thowfeek. “Instead the EC will send a PDF copy of the approved registry.”
This afternoon the elections officials need to depart for evening flights to London and Singapore, Thowfeek continued. The EC may need to seek approval from Riyaz to send officials and materials to these locations under the same conditions.
“We have not yet come to a situation where we cannot hold an election. We hope now and we continue to hope that the election proceeds. We are just trying to reach the candidates and their representatives,” added Commissioner Manik.
The opposition MDP announced yesterday (October 17) that it had accepted the modified voter registry despite finding some minor irregularities contained within, to ensure the re-run of the annulled 2013 presidential election goes ahead as scheduled on Saturday (October 19).
Ghafoor accused both the PPM and JP of deliberately trying to avoid a vote without giving sufficient reasons for their reservations.
“The situation is ridiculous, they have run away from the vote,” he said.
After attempts to contact senior JP leadership, Minivan News was advised to call party Spokesman Ibrahim Khaleel whose phone was switched off at the time off press.
Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Presidential candidate Abdulla Yameen told Minivan News this morning that the party still had not seen the amended voter registry, while questioning why the MDP had signed the list ahead of Saturday’s scheduled vote.
“I fail to understand the MDP’s readiness to sign the list before seeing the list,” he said today.
In a correspondence obtained by Minivan News that was sent by Yameen to Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek this morning, the PPM expressed concern that it not even seen or had the chance to verify the registry.
“Please allow us 72 hours to verify [the list] and please comply with our request to authenticate the sample specimens of thumb prints,” stated the message. Today, a PPM team will visit you and request to physically see the 71,000 re-registered forms.”