The High Court has rejected a case filed by the Jumhoree Party(JP) seeking the release of the voters list and result sheets in the first round of presidential elections held on Saturday, in which its candidate Gasim Ibrahim polled third by just over one percent.
In a short statement, the High Court said the case did not fit the situations stipulated in article 64 of the Elections Act of 2008. Under provision 17(f) election regulations, the Elections Commission (EC) cannot release this information without a court order.
While local and international election observers have broadly praised the conduct of Saturday’s presidential elections, Gasim has contested the results and called for a criminal investigation of the Chair and Vice Chair of the EC for allegedly tampering with the outcome.
Gasim Ibrahim declared at a press conference yesterday that he would not accept the results released by the EC, contesting that the vote had been rigged and that his party’s officials had come across several discrepancies during the ballot.
The presidential poll showed the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed finishing at the top of the race, securing 95,224 votes (45.45 percent while Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen securing 53,099 (25.35 percent) to finish second.
Gasim Ibrahim finished the race at third place securing 50,422 votes (24.07 percent) while incumbent President Mohamed Waheed Hassan received 10,750 votes, finishing last with 5.13 percent of popular vote.
The EC has maintained that the commission did not consider the complaints credible while Vice Chair of Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz described the accusations levied against the commission as “ridiculous” and “baseless”.
In a press conference on Tuesday – shortly after filing the case at the High Court – Jumhoree Party (JP) MP Ahmed Ilham said that the party will not let the Chair of the commission Fuwad Thowfeek “do whatever he wants with the votes” while everyone had been talking about the importance of “nationalism and Islam”.
“We have our dogs inside Elections Commission. By dogs, we mean informers who inform as about what is going on inside the Elections Commission. Don’t you dare touch a single ballot paper inside there, we will chop off the hands of those who do so,” said Ilham.
Gasim’s spokesperson Ibrahim Khaleel told the press that the party will not back down and would do everything it can to seek justice “even if the commission goes on to hold the run-off election.”
“The Head of State must call for a nation-wide investigation in order to maintain the credibility of the entire electoral process,” said Khaleel.
Khaleel also lambasted the Vice Chair of Elections Commission Fayaz Ahmed, whom Khaleel alleged was sharing confidential information with personal friends.
“Following a meeting with us and the Elections Commission, this Fayaz had told his friends that we talked to the members of the Elections Commission very rudely. Does he have to tell his friends that? What kind of professionalism is this?” Khaleel questioned.
“How come the meeting minutes of Elections Commission are being shared among his personal friends? You don’t take matters of work to home,” he added.
Khaleel also alleged that Elections Commission have “begun a special operation to cover up their wrong doings and fraud”. He also appealed the police to intervene and “help the people get justice”.
Khaleel also echoed similar sentiments as his party leader Gasim Ibrahim, who claimed that he should have finished the race in first place, had the election been “not rigged”.
“We have a team of highly trained campaign experts who consist of PhD holders and other intellectuals who have been trained by Gasim Ibrahim. We also had international experts on our team. The team had estimated that Gasim would gain at least 68,000 votes even in the worst case scenario. We know there is something wrong. We will uncover the whole plot,” Khaleel said.
JP MP Ilham called on the members of Election Commission to “honourably resign” and allow police to intervene and investigate the matter.
“I urge all commission members who did not partake in this scandal to come out to media and tell the public that they are ready to allow police to intervene and investigate. If you don’t do so, you will forever be labelled as traitors who betrayed our beloved nation,” Ilham said.
JP’s alleged discrepancies
The discrepancies which the JP alleges include: double voting, votes cast in the name of people who died prior to the election, inaccurate voter registry, lack of transparency during ballot counting, election officials being biased and aligning themselves towards MDP candidate Nasheed and PPM candidate Yameen.
Speaking during a rally held last Monday, Gasim claimed that 20,000 people had bypassed the rules and regulations and cast their votes “unlawfully”.
The resort tycoon also said that he had obtained more than 70,000 votes during Saturday’s election, but claimed the EC had reduced the number to 50,000.
If the EC had not done so, Gasim claimed, he would have been leading the poll and MDP candidate former President Nasheed would have been trailing behind him. Gasim alleged that the EC robbed JP of 20,000 votes and gifted them to the MDP.
“I will never forgive this atrocity carried out by the Elections Commission. I will never forgive them ever,” Gasim said, during the rally.
Gasim also called on the members of the EC to “resign and go home” if they were unable to execute their duties.
Reflecting on the court case, Gasim said that he hoped that the High Court and the Supreme Court would not refuse to give him and his supporters the justice they were seeking.
“My plea to the court is to speed up cases filed regarding these critical issues. To look into it and give a just judgement. I don’t believe the courts will decide wrongly on this matter,” Gasim said.
The JP leader also noted that it was too early to talk about coalitions, but the party would decide of this after the matter of its defeat was decided in the courts.
“Currently, there are no candidates that I should endorse,” Gasim said. “By the will of Allah, Gasim Ibrahim will be sworn in as the next president on November 11.”
Meanwhile, during the same rally, former deputy leader of PPM Umar Naseer – who backed Gasim in the poll – accused the commission of giving MDP members 30,000 additional ballot papers to tamper with the outcome of the election.
EC was “well prepared” for poll, say international observers amidst accusations
Despite the allegations, international observers have broadly praised the conduct of Saturday’s election, notably the peaceful voting throughout the day and preparedness of the Elections Commission.
“It is clear that the Elections Commission was logistically well-prepared for this election. Election material was distributed in time to the atolls and overall the process was well-administered. It was positively noted that significant majority of polling officials were women,” read a statement given by the former Prime Minister of Malta Dr Lawrence Gonzi who led the Commonwealth’s observer group.
Meanwhile J M Lyngdoh of the Indian team of election observers stated that the “polling was orderly and unblemished by any notable incident. It was also an enjoyable experience for the voter.”
“The voters’ lists were accurate and prominently displayed. The ballot boxes were opened and closed as per the scheduled time. The discipline, patience and dignity of the voter and the sheer competence, industry and cheerfulness of the election staff were quite admirable. The police were ubiquitous but discreetly non-intrusive,” Lyngdoh noted in his statement.
The US also congratulated the Maldives on the conduct of the first round of voting with US State Department Deputy Spokesperson, Marie Harf noting that “The very high voter turnout showed the strong commitment of the people of Maldives to democratic government”.
Local NGO Transparency Maldives – who ran the most comprehensive observation operation on the day – had earlier announced that none of the incidents reported on election day would have a “material impact on the outcome of the election”.
Transparency Maldives Communications Manager Aiman Rasheed said in 14.5 percent of ballot boxes where controversy occurred during counting, these would not have impacted the overall outcome of the first placed candidate.
As neither of the four candidates who contested in Saturday’s election were able to obtained the required ’50 percent plus one vote’ to secure a first round election victory, the Elections Commission has announced that a run-off election will take place on September 28.