The Maldives votes today in its first local council elections. Minivan News will provide rolling coverage throughout the day (scroll down).
Local Council Election Guide (English)
10:00 – The country’s ballot boxes opened from eight this morning without any major disruptions across the country and are expected to remain in use until 4:00pm this afternoon, according to Elections Commission (EC) President, Fuwad Thaufeeq.
Thaufeeq told Minivan News that there were no reports of delays or closures at any of the country’s polling stations, with an additional two ballot boxes opened in Trivandrum, India and Colombo, Sri Lanka, for Maldivian nationals overseas.
“All the [polling] stations were opened on time and many were staffed from about 45 minutes before operating to ensure they were fully ready,” he said. “We also have the two boxes in Sri Lanka and India that will also open between 8:00am and 4:00pm local time.”
Constituents wishing to take part in the elections will have until today’s 4:00pm deadline to queue up at one of the country’s polling stations to ensure they can select their chosen candidate, according to Thaufeeq. Any arrival after this deadline is expected to be turned away without being able to vote, the EC has said.
10:15 – The Maldives Police Service has said that it has received no major reports of major violence so far this morning or in the run up to the local council elections, despite fears about potential clashes between rival supporters.
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that despite some “little misunderstandings” at some island polling stations, there had been no major clashes.
“There has not been any violence so far today, yesterday or the day before that,” he said. “We are trying to work with the Elections Commission (EC) in regards to any problems, though there hasn’t been much confrontation.”
Shiyam said that certain “misunderstandings” had been reported to have occurred at some island-based ballot boxes, where confusion had arisen over whether one constituent was able to correctly see how he would be casting his vote.
“As someone was casing their vote, allegations were made that the constituent in question was blind, while others denied there was a problem,” he said.
10:30 – Police questioned a man in Villimale after he allegedly used his phone to photograph his ballot. Election officials are alert to the use of phone cameras at the ballot box, which can be used to show evidence that bought vote was made as demanded. Police were reportedly unable to find the photo on the man’s phone.
10:40 – Two Commonwealth Election Observers are working in Male’ and nearby islands, while two more are covering larger population hubs such as Kulhufushi.
The team includes Commissioner Florence Kebbie (National Election Commission of Sierra Leone), Zenaida Moya-Flowers (Chairperson of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and Mayor, Belize City Council), Anuya Kuwar (Project Officer – Asia region, Commonwealth Local Government Forum) and Alison Pearman (Policy Officer, Political Affairs Division, Commonwealth Secretariat).
“We don’t normally observe local council elections, but the Elections Commission asked us. We’re not formally monitoring the election – we won’t be doing press releases or making public announcements, but we will produce a report for the Commonwealth Secretary General and this will like by passed to the Elections Commission,” explained Pearman.
The EC has said that 913 observers from local NGOs and political parties will be observing the election. 1179 applications were submitted.
12:15 – Fares-Maathoda in Gaaf Dhaal has reportedly suspended voting because of the number of elderly people voting with help of assistants.
12:20 – Miadhu has reported on some of the rhetoric adopted by politicians in the lead up to today’s voting, with rival parties being compared to diseases and “back breakers” as election fever heats up.
The paper reported Speaker of Parliament and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) member Abdullah Shahid as claiming that the party offered “vaccination” against “yelllow fever” – yellow being the colour of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
Majlis Speaker and DRP Council member, Abdullah Shahid said Saturday’s election provided an opportunity to cure voter disaffection with the serving government.
“I appeal to all people to take your family and vaccinate them against yellow fever on Saturday,” Shahid was yesterday reported as saying. “This rally will end our campaign for the upcoming elections. And likewise the elections will end the yellow fever epidemic for the whole of the Maldives,” he said.
Meanwhile MDP Parliamentary Group Leader ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik suggested that voters would not turn to the DRP, as they had already had their “backs broken” during the party’s previous innings. ‘Back breaking’ is a reference to allegations against a prominent opposition figure, who is alleged to have broken the back of a dissident under the former administration.
According to Miadhu, Moosa told attendees at an MDP campaign rally held yesterday at Male’s artificial beach that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom had headed “an oppressive government” that he claimed “ruled tyrannically by abusing the rights of the people.”
Beyond MP wordplay and party rhetoric, Minivan News last week reported on what a number of the country’s most prominent parties saw as the key election issues.
13:30 – Aiman Rasheed, Projects Coordinator for NGO Transparency Maldives which is coordinating the domestic observation of the elections, has claimed that it continues to have a number of major concerns including the prevalence of ‘assisted’ voting, ongoing campaigning by parties within ballot areas, and low levels of voter education as to the process.
Rasheed told Minivan News that Transparency Maldives had particular concerns regarding public’s understanding how to vote in a such a complex election, and feared this would lead to many votes being invalidated, particularly in areas where multiple votes were required for island and council atolls.
“If people pick four instead of a required five candidates, then their vote is invalidated. It has to be just right,” he said. “[Transparency Maldives] anticipates quite a lot of invalid votes. In the general election – 2008 – only about one percent of votes were invalid. We are expecting a higher number this time.”
Rasheed added that there was also potential for the abuse of the assisted voting system, which is used to aid disabled or incapacitated constituents to attend the ballot.
“Assisted voting is given at the discretion of the Elections Commission (EC) officers, though we have been getting complaints from all over the country and police have also raised concerns,” he said.
According to Rasheed, although laws have been outlined over the provision of assistance and votes to constituents with mental illness or disabilities at the ballot box, many of the traits for defining these criteria in the country remain “subjective”, making enforcement difficult.
13:40 –Transparency predicts vote counting will begin at 5:30pm, after those still in the queue at 4:00pm are given the chance to vote. Initial results should be available after two hours (~7:30pm).
14:50 – Haveeru reports that several ballots on Baarah in Haa Alif Atoll have been destroyed after an ink bottle spilled on the ballots. The EC confirmed a request for more ballots to be sent to the island.
15:45 – Large crowds remain outside several voting centres in Male’, despite proximity to ballot closing.
16:30 – As polling comes to a close, some of the political parties have begun discussing early impressions from the polling.
Ahmed Haleem, spokesperson for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), said that although polling appears to have gone relatively smoothly, he was not happy with voter turn-out within Male’, which he claimed had been “poor” – a major potential setback for the party.
According to Haleem, the ruling party was concerned that many in the electorate were not aware of the importance of the council elections, which meant that voter turnout in the city was not as high as islands across the country’s atolls.
“This is a big problem for the MDP, we have a large support base in Male’,” he claimed.
The party spokesperson also expressed concern at the decision to end polling by 4:00pm as opposed to later in the evening.
“People are not coming to vote by 4:00pm – a lot of people are still waiting outside the gate to vote, but they can’t get in now.”
16:46 – A number of islands have reported problems with assisted voting for disabled or impaired constituents, says Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam, with allegations that insiders from various parties may have been abusing the system to gain votes.
Despite these complaints, Shiyam added that police had not become involved in the matter as it was not believed to be sufficiently widespread or organised, leaving Elections Commission officers to deal with the matter.
Beyond some concerns over the assisted voting, Shiyam claimed that voting across the islands had remained peaceful during the day.
“So far, there has not been any big issues with violence,” he said.
15:09 – Ballots are closing as queues recede, and counting has begun for some islands. Preliminary results should be available in several hours.
17:52 – Preliminary result for Hulhuheniveiru, 52% MDP (Maizan Ali Maniku), 40.5% DRP (Ahmed Nizam).
18:00 – Preliminaryresult for Galolhu Dehkunu area T-05 ballot box, DRP leading 43% out of five candidates (Ibrahim Sujau).
18:27 – Total four ballot boxes counted, temporary results indicate 3 to MDP, 1 to DRP.
18:29 – Preliminary results for Male’ city council available shortly.
18:43 – Latest ballot box count: MDP 8, DRP 4, GIP 1, Independent 2
19:42 – Latest ballot box wins: MDP ahead with 16, DRP 9, Independent 3, GIP 1.
21:15 – Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali has said he remains confident the opposition party will have a positive feedback from the elections as more votes come in from the country’s island councils.
Thasmeen told Minivan News that despite not doing “too badly” in the Male’ council elections so far, he was disappointed at a last-minute decision by the Supreme Court allow the elections for the formation of a council to serve an Addu City.
Otherwise the party remained positive of success, he said.
“We have been getting feedback from the islands and so far it looks good,” he said. “We still are awaiting all the results from the island council that are slowly coming in and over the course of the night, we expect we will have a reasonable margin.”
In Male’, of four seats won by the DRP during the previous government election within the city, Thasmeen said he believed it would lose only one in the council elections; a decision he blamed on a DRP member running as an independent alongside an official party candidate.
According to the DRP leader, the major disappointment of the day had so far been felt in the controversial decision to once again allow elections for the Addu City that it had not been prepared for.
Thasmeen claimed it had reluctantly gone along with the decision of the courts, but was hindered by having disbanded its campaign team for Addu.
“It was clearly announced [the Addu elections] would not be today,” he said. “[The decision to hold them] has given the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) an advantage due to their larger finances. We should have had more time to allow constituents to return.”
21:21 – 50 percent of ballot boxes have been counted or are in process, according to Aiman Rasheed from Transparency Maldives.
“I think things have gone much better than we anticipated, although there have been issues that the Electoral Commission could have prevented,” he said.
Low voter turnout, Aiman suggested, was likely due to general apathy “as people don’t know what these councils are supposed to do or what their mandates are.”
21:31 – Complaints have delayed the counting of two ballot boxes in Dhaalu Atoll. Ballot box for Maavah in Laamu Atoll has resumed counting after temporary disruption.
Refresh this page for further updates as the day progresses
Download the Local Council Election Guide (English)
Credit: Analysis spreadsheet prepared by Aishath Aniya. Data sourced from Elections Commission.