The Election Commission has received complaints about police preparations for the Thaa Atoll Thimarafushi Constituency by-election although Commissioner Fuad Thaufeeq, who describes the competition as “heavy”, remains confident the poll will be a success.
Mohamed Musthafa, the disqualified Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) member seeking re-election in the Thimarafushi by-election this Saturday, has questioned the actions of the police, alleging attempts to intimidate locals and prevent MDP supporters casting their votes following the arrest of seven people on the island.
“Lots of things are happening, they are arresting our boys. I heard they will hold them for three days so they cannot vote,” said Musthafa.
“Several people who were at the MDP jagaha went to PPM jagaha and created a disturbance and were non-compliant with the police. Seven people were arrested following the incident. One person tested positive for alcohol, while three others refused to provide urine,” said Haneef.
Haneef said police have made their preparations for the poll and have deployed the necessary officers. When asked about the precise numbers he said that it would depend on the intelligence received from the island.
Musthafa warned that the police presence on the island had intimidated locals, particularly after recent arrests, which he argued were without good cause. He alleged that one of the young men arrested on Tuesday received a head wound after a police officer pushed his head into a wall.
The MDP candidate also claimed that the police presence on the island of around 3000 people has gone from less than ten officers to well over one hundred baton-armed riot officers.
“This is the worst election we have ever seen, in 30 years. They are threatening people but they can’t buy our hearts and minds,” said Musthafa.
Muthafa was forced to step down from his constituency seat in February following a High Court ruling stating that his debts disqualified him from holding office. The debt has since been paid and he is confident of success on Saturday: “I will be there in Parliament next week.”
The case was brought by Umar Naseer, Interim Vice-President of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM). Musthafa’s opponent on Saturday is Ahmed Shareef of the PPM.
Visiting the island this week, Election Commissioner Fuad Thaufeeq met both candidates. He acknowledged the receipt of some complaints relating to police activities and said that the necessary steps would be taken.
Thaufeeq also met with the local head of police who assured him that the police were working only to ensure that the island was safe during the polls.
The Election Commissioner stated that the police presence had been enhanced due to problems with the 2009 parliamentary elections which eventually prompted a second poll to be taken: “We don’t want that to happen again.”
Election Commissioner Thaufeeq reiterated that the Election Commission was fully prepared for the poll, the first of its kind since the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed on February 7.
“The Elections Commission is ready. We are sending teams out to the islands today. They are formed from local personnel and will work with selected officers. The head of the polling station will be from the Election Commission,” said Thaufeeq. “We will have a successful vote on Saturday.”
The capabilities of the Election Commission have come under scrutiny in recent weeks after the government had maintained that free and fair elections cannot be carried out in the country due to institutional weaknesses.
Both the Commonwealth and the European Union have urged the current government to hold fresh presidential elections as soon as possible. In The United States last week pledged US$500,000 dollars in technical assistance aid to begin an elections programme.
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) is due to meet next week to discuss the progress that has been made towards resolving the political impasse in the country.
Despite this State Minister for Foreign Affairs, and daughter of former President Maumoon Gayoom, Dunya Maumoon told the BBC recently that due to the weakness of institutions such as the judiciary, the Election Commission, and the Human Rights Commission (HRCM), the elections could not be held in the “in the foreseeable future”.
Speaking last week, Thaufeeq said, “We are confident we can organise any election mandated by law – whether it is a presidential election, referendum, or by-election. We will serve our duty.”
Saturday will also see a parliamentary election for the Kaafu Atoll Kaashidhoo Constituency, as well as elections for the vacant seats in both Thaa Atoll Gaadhiffushi Island council and Haa Dhaal Atoll Kumundhoo island council.