The Elections Commissions (EC) has said it has noticed a surge of discrepancies on membership forms submitted by certain political parties including forged documents, forms with false information and even forms filed under the names of dead people.
During a press conference on Wednesday, Vice President of the Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz said the commission noticed the discrepancies after it received a large number of membership forms ahead of parliament’s decision that parties with under 10,000 members would be dissolved.
According to Fayaz, within the last few weeks the EC noticed that a large number of membership forms had major forgeries including forged signatures and duplicated national identity card numbers.
He also said the commission had received forms submitted in the name of people who no longer were alive.
Fayaz said the commission had now forwarded the cases to relevant authorities, including police and the Department of National Registration (DNR) to investigate the matter.
Speaking to Minivan News, Secretary General of Elections Commission Asim Abdul Sattar said the commission was now working to verify and validate all the forms that it had received from the parties.
He added that the commission felt the forged membership forms began appearing after the parliament previously ordered the commission to stop using fingerprint verification on membership forms.
In April 2010, the Elections Commission introduced a new political party registration form to avoid the recurrent problem of people being registered to political parties without their knowledge.
President of the Elections Commission Fuad Thaufeeq at the time said the commission had uncovered an estimated 900-1100 people registered to political parties without their knowledge, “from all political parties.”
The new form introduced required the person’s fingerprint, two witnesses and their signature. It came under heavy criticism from political parties alleging that the EC was biased in approving forms by certain political parties.
On November 2012, Parliament’s Independent Institutions Oversight Committee requested the Elections Commission cease requiring fingerprints on applications for political party membership.
The committee members questioned the efficiency of fingerprinting technology, arguing that no mechanism or database presently existed in the Maldives that could store the required amount of information.
Explaining the decision to discontinue the EC’s request for fingerprints at the time, Deputy Chairman of the Independent Institutions Committee, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Sameer, said the Maldives did not presently have a mechanism or system to collect and store such information.
“In regards to issues with the fingerprinting system, the EC, Department of National Registration and the Maldives Police Service all agreed they do not have enough records or verification systems available,” he told Minivan News at the time.
The DNR was also reported to have confirmed that no fingerprint database presently existed in the Maldives.
The EC Secretary General added that another factor causing the sudden boost in forged forms may have been the passage of Political Parties Bill, which requires parties to achieve a prerequisite of 10,000 members before being recognised as a political party – and receiving state funding.
“Some political parties began campaigns to achieve 10,000 members and during the process we started noticing such [invalid] forms. They may have predicted that the Political Parties bill would be passed,” he said.
Sattar admitted the commission was facing “technical difficulties”, such as the technology required to verify fingerprints.
“Now we are working to formulate political parties regulation under the newly passed act, and we believe that when this regulation comes into force, it will significantly lower the problems the commission is currently facing,” he said.
However, Sattar declined to reveal the names of the parties that were involved in the scandal, stating only that “the commission will decide whether to reveal the details after investigations by relevant authorities conclude.”
Following the parliament’s decision to speed up the drafting of political parties bill, several smaller parties began membership sprees to reach the limit of 10,000 members, including President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Gaumee Iththihaadh Party (GIP), business tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim’s Jumhoree Party and the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP).
Waheed’s GIP was accused of trying to induce people to join through illegitimate means, in a bid to shore up the party’s membership base. The inducements included offering “music equipment and a place to play for free” as well as “hosting shows and parties” for young people.
Apart from luxurious parties and entertainment, GIP also allegedly promised highly paid government jobs and promotions in return for joining the party.
Meanwhile, contrary to GIP’s approach, the Adhaalath Party (AP) employed a more conservative approach running membership campaigns under slogans such as “Join Adhaalath to defend Islam” and “Adhaalath, the path to paradise”.
At the time of the ratification of Political Parties Act, the Adhaalath Party managed to attain 10,000 members along with the Jumhoree Party (JP), while GIP failed and was removed from the list of political parties.
The Elections Commission has called on the public to be wary of the situation and report to the commission as soon as anyone noticed they were registered to a political party without their knowledge.