The High Court has held the first hearing of the case filed by the Jumhooree Party (JP) against the Elections Commission (EC) over alleged discrepancies and irregularities, requesting that the court order the commission to hand over the voters list.
Prior to the commencement of the hearing today (September 15), attorneys representing both the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) had intervened in the case.
In arguing their case, the attorneys representing the JP claimed that, despite having raised issues concerning the discrepancies within the voter list, the EC had refused to hand over the list to the party so it could verify the issues.
To support their case, the JP produced three documents – each document consisting of lists of alleged fraudulent votes.
The first document was a list of 568 people that, according to the party, had died before the elections but whose names were still present on the voter list. Of the 568 in the JP’s list, 144 people had passed away on January 1 at exactly 12:00am.
The second document was a list of 172 people, which the JP claimed had their names repeated twice on the voter list.
The third document, the party claimed, was a list of people who were originally on Male’ Municipality’s Special Register – a special registry of people belonging to Male but not having their own houses in Male – but who had been registered to different houses in Male’ without the permission of the house owners.
The party claimed that the evidence it had gathered regarding the first round of presidential election suggested serious wrongdoings that undermined the credibility of the election.
The JP pleaded at the court to issue the mandatory order required by the law – to release the voter list which the party has been seeking.
EC lawyer’s response
In response to the JP’s argument, the lead attorney representing the EC’s legal team – veteran lawyer and former Attorney General Husnu Al Suood – contended that the entire lawsuit filed against the EC lacked any legal grounds to back its claim.
Suood went on to claim that the JP had filed the case like that of a “fishing expedition”, hoping to file another lawsuit based on any evidence they collected from the current case.
The former Attorney General claimed the reason the law explicitly stated that the voter list can only be issued through a court order was to protect private information of the voters such as their date of birth, the place they had voted, and whether they actually had gone to vote or not.
Suood further claimed that any order from the High Court to issue the voter list must be based on very strong evidence supporting the release of the document. If not, he claimed, the list would otherwise be used to manipulate the outcome of the upcoming elections including that of the run-off election.
Through the voter list, a political party can easily identify a specific voter and those who had not turned up for voting, meaning that the list could easily be used for unlawful activities, Suood argued.
Responding to the first document the JP produced as evidence, Suood questioned the authenticity of the list, raising questions over how the names of 144 people who had died in the 19th century were present on the voter list of the 2013 elections. He also challenged the JP to reveal the source of the information it had presented to the court.
Of the 568 registered people whom the JP alleged to have died, Suood claimed that seven people were found on the original voter list, of which four were actually alive. The status of the three remaining identities are currently being verified stage, said Suood.
In response to the second document, Suood said that when the EC had verified the allegedly repeated 172 names in the list, each name had a different national identification number or date of birth, meaning that the supposedly repeated names were simply different people.
Responding to the final document, Suood claimed that the voters had been registered under their current addresses to allow them easy access to vote. He added that the EC had intended to ensure that all those eligible to vote would be able to do so.
In summary, Suood pleaded the court not to issue any order based on simple claims and doubts, but rather based on substantial evidence, which he claimed the JP had failed to produce.
The PPM meanwhile during the hearing spoke in favor of the JP, alleging that the EC had been “negligent”. The PPM’s lawyer Adam Zaneen requested the court to issue an order on EC to issue the voter list, and send the PPM a copy.
The MDP echoed similar remarks to Suood, claiming that the JP had failed to produce any substantial documentary evidence to support its claim. The party also suggested the JP had failed to follow due procedure and had not complained to the EC regarding the list.
Concluding the hearing,the presiding panel of judges said that the court would hold the next hearing very soon during which it would decide the case.