Over 300 candidates will today contest for 85 seats in the 18th People’s Majlis as the Maldives holds its second multiparty parliamentary polls.
Representatives of the governing Progressive Coalition have been divided among constituencies, with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) competing for 50 seats, the Jumhooree Party for 28 seats, and the Maldives Development Alliance vying for 7 places in the recently expanded parliament.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) will field candidates in all 85 constituencies, while its recent ally the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party will contest for 6 seats.
The religious Adhaalath Party will stand in 12 constituencies after disagreements within the governing coalition – with whom it had allied itself during last year’s presidential vote. 114 candidates will stand independently for today’s vote.
After last minute concerns about a potential delay of polls, the Elections Commission (EC) has confirmed that voting will proceed at 8am before closing at 4pm today.
Repeated delays and the heavy involvement of the Supreme Court in last year’s presidential poll eventually contributed to the dismissal of the EC’s senior members earlier this month and the subsequent filing of a case on Thursday (March 20) which suggested today’s polls could not legally proceed.
“So far we have not heard anything from the Supreme Court, so we are going ahead,” EC Media Officer Aishath Shifana Ahmed told Minivan News this morning.
The significance of today’s polls has been underlined by the MDP’s Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, who has described the elections as “do or die”. Among the party’s prominent pledges are judicial reform, the empowerment of local councils, and potentially the impeachment of President Abdulla Yameen.
“What we would like to do is to get the democratic process back on track, which means whatever is necessary for that we will do. If that requires impeachment, impeachment it shall be, but if there are other avenues for getting the process back on track, that is our main target.”
The PPM has meanwhile repeatedly asserted that the public should grant the Progressive Coalition a majority in the Majlis in order to allow it to fulfil its legislative agenda, as well as reiterating previous pledges to defend Islam.
“The government has made many important electoral pledges. However those pledges can be fulfilled if only the people elect members of the Progressive Coalition government,” JP leader Gasim Ibrahim told Miadhu this week.
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11:30pm – As local media reports continue to show strong evidence of a resounding coalition victory, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed has called upon all elected MPs to “formulate and implement all that’s necessary for the development of our people and nation”.
Meanwhile, the MDP’s International Spokesman Hamid Abdul Ghafoor described the result as “not the best”, expressing long term fears over the direction in which he sees the country heading.
“The legitimisation of the 7/2/12 coup d’etat has reversed extensive democratic gains Maldives made post-2008, ” said Hamid. “A cold winter has set on democracy in tropical Maldives.”
11:00pm – The EC expect to be able to announce their provisional results between 8am and midday tomorrow.
10:45pm – The EC have just concluded their press conference, noting that polling generally went smoothly.
The only major incident was reported in Rakeedhoo, Vaavu atoll after a group of people came to vote after polls had closed. After the controversy, with the exception of official in charge of the box and the person’s assistant, officials refused to count the votes.
According to the law, noted the EC, the box has to be counted at the station and so the EC will have to send some people there. The police have been asked for their assistance.
One other issue was related to ballot papers in Alifushi in Raa atoll, and in Mahibadhoo in Alify Dhaalu atoll. Two people are still waiting to vote after the EC sent the wrong ballot papers to the station.
By 9:30pm, the EC reported receiving 115 complaints in writing, 18 of which were about the voters registry. Other complaints – were received by phone – included anti-campaign and complaints against elections officers – some of whom have had action taken against them.
Celebrations tonight will be considered as a campaign activity, noted the EC, and will have to wait until after 6am tomorrow.
Congratulations our great coalition on a fantastic victory at the polls today! Al-hamdhu lillah. — Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (@maumoonagayoom) March 22, 2014
10.20pm – With most races too close to call, state broadcaster TVM has confirmed 19 seats where candidates have an unassailable lead. These include ten seats for the ruling PPM, four seats and one seat respectively for its coalition partners JP and MDA, one seat for the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, and four seats for the opposition MDP.
The results for the other 66 constituencies are subject to change with a smaller margin between candidates. In addition to the main ballot boxes for each constituency, several constituents are re-registered to vote in other locations such as industrial islands and resorts.
With 140,182 votes counted, newspaper Haveeru has 33 seats for the PPM, 12 for JP, 5 for MDA, 5 for independent candidates, one for the Adhaalath Party and 28 for the MDP.
10:15pm – Former TVM Presenter Aishath Leeza has conceded defeat to the MDP’s Ali Azim in Malé’s Medhu Henveiru constituency.
10:00pm – With no official results as yet from the EC, despite differing results from local media outlets, a picture is emerging of a clear coalition victory in the polls.
A combination of local and social media shows victories for prominent MDP MPs Mariya Didi, Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, Speaker of the Majlis Abdulla Shahid, Rozaina Adam, and Imthiyaz Fahmy. These sources also reveal losses for recent MDP convert Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, and MP Ali Waheed.
The Progressive Coalition’s lead in the polls included an entry into the Majlis for former Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz with the JP, and a return to the Majlis for Ahmed ‘Redwave’ Saleem, Ahmed Mahlouf, and Ahmed Nihan – all for the PPM.
7:15pm – With vote counting completed in most polling stations, local media has reported the results of roughly half of the 473 ballot boxes. Provisional results suggest that the ruling Progressive Coalition is on course to secure a majority of the 85 parliamentary seats.
Some candidates have meanwhile conceded defeat and declared victory on social media. MDP MP Ali Waheed has conceded defeat to the JP candidate in the Alif Alif Thohdoo constituency while MDP candidate for Thimarafushi, Mohamed Musthafa, has declared victory.
Several incumbent MPs, including PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof and JP MP Gasim Ibrahim as well as MDP MPs Imthiyaz Fahmy and Eva Abdulla, have also established strong leads in their constituency.
With 78,842 votes counted, newspaper Haveeru has the PPM with 30 seats, MDP with 30 seats, JP with 12 seats, MDA with two seats, Adhaalath Party with two seats and independent candidates with two seats.
The EC has said it expects to announce preliminary results tomorrow.
6:00pm – Sun reports that observers have been found in order for the count to begin in Thinadhoo.
4:35pm – Sun Online has reported that officials in Thinadhoo, in Ghaafu Dhaalu atoll, are unable to open the box for counting due to the absence of observers. Without observers, Sun reports that the EC has said three people who voted at that box must be present to begin counting, though none are reported to be in the area.
At around 2pm this afternoon, Sun had reported that turnout was only 24 percent in the island.
4:25pm – After closing each box, officials will take a half-hour break before counting begins.
4:10pm – Ballot boxes are now closing, with no more people allowed to enter queues. Reports continue to confirm a low turnout, however.
3:40pm – Police have reported that there are not enough ballot papers in Alifushi, Raa atoll, and Kurendhoo in Lhaviyani atoll. Police are working on transporting additional papers.
3:30pm – A 38-year-old man has been taken into police custody in Fuvahmulah after allegedly assaulting his wife. Local media reports eyewitnesses as stating that the man struck his wife after she emerged from the polling place. He reportedly asked her who she voted for and became upset when she named the candidate.
3:15pm – The EC has received 75 complaints in total, including three complaints about names not being on voter lists, five about anti-campaigning and four relates to bribery.
Turnout is reported to be low, particularly in comparison to the presidential polls – the polls for which had an average turnout of over 88 percent.
3:10pm – EC currently holding second press conference of the day.
The EC did not put up photos in the public list due to the complaints it received about the matter during the local council elections in January. Although there are photos in the lists being used by officials.
3:00pm – Police have arrested two people, one for distributing and another for accepting money near a ballot box at around 2:30pm. Police have confirmed that there have been several reports of distributing money.
2:30pm – “I was unaware that ballot boxes were shuffled. So i had to spend over an hour trying to vote. I wish the SC had better raised awareness about these changes”: Adam Haleem, 34yrs.
2:25pm – “I was undecided about voting too. But am going to go cast a vote now. Despite SC interference, I cannot live with myself if I don’t exercise this right,” said Ahmed Irfan, 28yrs.
2:20pm – “I won’t vote. I can’t make myself participate in another Supreme Court run election. What’s the point? We all know which way the results will lean to regardless of real results,” said Aminath Yulia, 28yrs.
2:10pm – 4,343 election officials are involved in conducting the polls in addition to 1,647 observers, 1,858 monitors, and 1,363 representatives of candidates.
EC data reveals there are 240,663 voters eligible to take part in today’s polls – 117,028 female and 123,635 male.
1:45pm – Press release from Transparency Maldives: “Transparency Maldives thanks our observers deployed across the country for their dedication in observing the election processes. Transparency Maldives’ observer network has a wide national coverage spanning resorts, prisons, and abroad in Kuala Lumpur and Colombo.
The results we report are based on random sampling and are generalisable to the entire country. These results are based on the observation at the time of opening of polls.
The opening of the polls was smooth, and the administrative preparation went well. 79% of all polling stations opened by 8.10am, 20% of polling stations opened within the first hour of the required opening time, and 1% of polling stations opened between 9am and 10am.
Nearly all polling station officials were in place at all polling stations.
The materials required for voting were present and the ballot papers were counted at 100% of the polling stations. 100% of ballot boxes were verified as empty at the opening of the polls.
Candidates were well represented at polling stations. Only 10% of the polling stations did not have a party/candidate observer present at the opening of the polls. Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) observers were present at 78% of polling stations while 81% of polling stations had observers from the coalition parties, at the opening of the polls.
Transparency Maldives also notes that police presence was visible at 93% of the observed polling stations at the time of opening.
Observers concluded that the polling stations were set up to ensure a secret vote in 98% of polling stations. Transparency Maldives observers will be closely monitoring the 2% of the polling station where the secrecy of the ballot may be compromised due to the layout of the polling station.
We encourage all parties to maintain the climate of peace. Our observers are working hard at polling stations and will be present at the polling stations until the polls are closed and the results are announced.”
1:34pm – “I have faith in the system. This vote will change our lives for the better,” said Aishath Thaufeeqa, 22.
1:14pm – A voter who displayed a marked ballot paper in Thaa Vilifushi and another who took a photograph of a marked ballot paper in Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo have been taken in for questioning by police.
An individual has meanwhile been arrested in Male’ near the polling station in Iskandhar School for allegedly obstructing police duty.
12:52pm – “It is important that the government gets majority in parliament. No other way we can have the development we deserve. That’s why I am voting,” said Mohamed Ikleel, 49.
“It’s my responsibility as a citizen to vote. Whether it makes a difference or not” said Ali Gasim, 38.
“We can’t let Adhaalath into policy making. So it’s important that MDP and PPM [supporters] both go out and vote” said Afiya Saeed, 36.
“I am hopeful that this is finally a fair election. Fuwad is no longer there to do fraud. Thank Allah,” said smail Wafir, 53.
12:30pm – A 33-year-old and a 35-year-old has been taken in for questioning by police in Seenu Feydhoo after displaying marked ballot papers.
12:25pm – Speaking to reporters after voting in CHSE this morning, President Abdulla Yameen said he hoped candidates from the Progressive Coalition as well as the Adhaalath Party would secure 65 seats. He added however that the coalition could lose some seats as a result of members of coalition parties contesting as independents, which could split the vote among pro-government candidates.
If the government coalition secures a majority, President Yameen said the highest priority on the legislative agenda would be passing bills related to economic policy as well as the revised penal code.
He expressed confidence that the coalition would not fall apart after the elections.
Yameen also reportedly criticised the current People’s Majlis for not approving two members to the five-member EC to replace its former chair and deputy chair, who were removed by the Supreme Court on charges of disobeying court orders as well as contempt of court.
According to online news outlet CNM, Yameen said there was no need to appoint two members to the EC if it could conduct polls with just three members and an acting chair. He however added that the coalition parties would not be contesting the outcome on the grounds of the missing EC members.
12:00pm – “I’ll vote free and fair. I doubt the counting will proceed in the same manner though” said Fathimath Areesha, 36, Seenu Maradhoo.
“PPM will win today. Not with support, but with undue power” said Abdul Matheen, 46, after voting in Iskandhar School.
11:40am – Former President Nasheed after voting at Malé City Hall.
11:35am – Police have taken two more persons into custody for displaying marked ballot papers. They were a 29-year-old from Gahdhoo and an individual from Gaaf Dhaal Madaveli. Police explained that persons who display marked ballot papers are released after questioning.
11:30am – The EC urged all voters to go out and cast their ballots as early as possible, and for all election observers and monitors to assure voting proceeds as per the law.
11:25am – Those stations which started late – Shaviyani maan’ugoodhoo and Gaafaru – will be given the full eight hours for voting, says the EC.
11:15am – 12 complaints have been received regarding today’s voting, concerning anti-campaigning, the use of illegal means to get support, regarding elections officials, and campaigning during prohibited hours.
While turnout is as yet unclear, unofficial observers suggest it is low.
The EC hopes to release provisional results by tomorrow morning.
11:10am – Voting began on time in all but two islands. The EC has received 13 complaints regarding the voter registry – the most serious being five voters who claimed to have been re-registered without their knowledge.
11:05am – EC – now consisting of members Ismail Habeeb, Ali Mohamed Manik, and Mohamed Farooq – begins press conference.
10:55am – Voter turnout in Addu reportedly being affected by poor weather.
9:55am – Police have arrested three individuals for displaying marked ballot papers at polling stations. They were a 28-year-old man from the Feydhoo ward of Addu City, an 18-year-old in Faafu Nilandhoo, and an 18-year-old in Gaaf Dhaal Gahdhoo.
Voting was also briefly interrupted in a polling station in Malé for the Maafanu North constituency while police took down campaign banners in the customs area.
9:25am – EC announces first press conference for 11am. All ballot boxes are reported to be open for voting, with the exception of Gaafaru in Kaafu atoll which is due to open imminently.
9:15am – The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) issued a press statement yesterday urging all parties and voters to abide by rules and regulations on polling day and to respect the rights of others.
9:10am – In Shaviyani Maaugoodhoo, officials from the Elections Commission’s complaints bureau requested police assistance in taking down a banner in the vicinity of the polling station. Voting had not started in the island at the time.
Local media has reported that voting has temporarily stopped for one ballot box in Haa Dhaal Kulhudhufushi after officials discovered that one token number was not printed.
In Shaviyani Maaugoodhoo, officials from the Elections Commission’s complaints bureau requested police assistance in taking down a banner in the vicinity of the polling station. Voting had not started in the island at the time.
Local media has reported that voting has temporarily stopped for one ballot box in Haa Dhaal Kulhudhufushi after officials discovered that one token number was not printed.
9:00am – Transparency Maldives – running the largest observation mission during today’s polls – has noted that officials are not allowed to use phones in polling stations, and that a communication official will assist in communications between officials and the EC.
Point 10 of the Supreme Court guidelines introduced after the annulment of the September 7 presidential election first round, states that:
“The Elections Commission and relevant authorities should make it illegal for any person (including officials) who enters the polling station to carry phones, handbags, files or any item (excluding pens) that could be considered to infringe upon the rights of candidates and ensure that no such action takes place.”
8:15am – Police will today provide elections security throughout the country through ‘Operation Iruvaru’. Police announced last night that investigations were being carried out in different parts of the country into allegations of bribery and drug trading with relation to votes.
8am – Polls open