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Final preparations are underway and “everything is in order” for the Maldives’ Elections Commission to hold tomorrow’s presidential election second round runoff, says the commission.
Saturday’s (November 16) vote will mark the sixth time the Elections Commission (EC) has prepared to hold presidential polls over the last two months.
While last Saturday’s (November 9) first round revote was conducted without incident – and showed nearly identical results to the annulled September 7 first round – the November 10 runoff was halted by an early morning Supreme Court order.
“Everything is in order” for a free, fair, inclusive and transparent poll to take place tomorrow, EC Chairperson Fuwad Thowfeek told Minivan News today (November 15).
“Both the presidential candidates’ appointees signed [the voter registry] yesterday. The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) finished at 4:00pm, while the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) finished at 8:15pm,” he noted.
EC Director General Mohamed Shakeel echoed these sentiments speaking to Minivan News today.
“The Elections Commission is prepared for the runoff tomorrow,” said Shakeel. “All [voter] lists are now off to the atolls and abroad. Some have already been delivered to the atoll islands.”
He also noted that elections officials’ training was completed Thursday night and they are “now off to their assigned islands and countries”.
“Personally I believe we are ready for a free, fair, inclusive and transparent poll tomorrow,” Shakeel concluded.
Polling will take place from 7:30am to 4:00pm tomorrow, he added.
The Maldives Police Service is working alongside the EC to transport ballot papers and other materials in preparation for tomorrow’s presidential run-off, according to local media.
The EC also announced earlier this week that voters left-hand ring fingers will be marked in tomorrow’s election, with the right and left-hand forefingers having been marked in the two previous polls on September 7 and October 9.
Uphold electoral laws: EC
Meanwhile, the commission has asked all stakeholders to adhere to elections laws and regulations while campaigning, and not to undermine the electoral rights of any candidate.
In particular, the EC urged the public at large to not engage in anti-campaigning and/or propagating false information against either presidential candidate and reiterated that all campaigning must cease by today’s 6:00pm deadline.
The commission will take action against any individual or group that violates these electoral laws, the EC also noted in a press statement released yesterday.
The European Union said yesterday that it is prepared to consider “appropriate measures” should Saturday’s run-off election be subverted, and the country fall into authoritarianism.
Past presidential polls
Prior to the November 9 revote, the Elections Commission called upon “all friends of democracy to help us deliver a free, fair, transparent and inclusive presidential election as scheduled”.
The September 7 first round poll received a unanimous positive assessment by more than a thousand local and international election observers, before Jumhooree Party (JP)’s leader, Gasim Ibrahim, who placed third in the poll refused to accept the results.
After agreeing to hear Gasim’s complaints, the Supreme Court then issued an injunction on September 23 to indefinitely delay the presidential election’s second round, before the police physically halted the EC’s ongoing preparations for the September 28 run-off.
The Supreme Court ultimately ruled to annul the first round – citing a secret police report which alleged electoral fraud, but was never presented to the EC’s lawyers – and delineated 16 guidelines to hold a revote by October 20.
With just 11 days to prepare for the next round of the presidential election – a process that usually requires a minimum of 45 days – the Supreme Court issued subsequent rulings dictating managerial and administrative tasks the EC must undertake while preparing for the repeat first round.
The apex court’s guidelines also mandated police play a substantive role in handling the logistics and security of the election and ballot papers, as well as demanded that all parties sign the voter lists, effectively giving presidential candidates veto power.
The day before the scheduled October 19 election, candidates Abdulla Yameen and Gasim had still not signed the voter lists and were not responding to phone calls from the EC or officials sent to their homes. The pair subsequently demanded extensive fingerprint verification of the new voters’ registry – another stipulation of the Supreme Court midnight rulings.
The same evening both candidates sought a Supreme Court ruling demanding that the election be delayed.
Receiving only a brief instruction from the court to follow its guidelines, the EC prioritised the guideline requiring an election before Oct 20 and proceeded with the vote.
However, an hour before polls were due to open on October 19 police obstructed EC staff attempting to leave the commission’s office with ballot documents and equipment – later stating that police had decided not to provide cooperation to the EC as it had not followed the 16-point guidelines imposed by the court.
The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has since concluded that police illegally blocked the EC from conducting the re-vote of the presidential election on October 19 in contravention of the constitution, the Police Act, and the Elections Act.
Following the rescheduling of the election for November 9 – just two days before the end of the presidential term – Elections Commissioner Fuwad Thowfeek labelled the Supreme Court’s guidelines “restrictions” and expressed concern that they effectively allowed political parties to stop elections from happening.
Amidst presidential elections preparations, the EC has also published by-laws regarding local council elections to take place in December.