The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned the intervention of Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor in the Jumhooree Party’s (JP’s) case at the Supreme Court seeking annulment of the September 7 presidential election, expressing concern over the AG’s support of the JP’s stance at Tuesday’s hearing.
In a press release on Tuesday night (September 17), the MDP accused Azima Shukoor of advocating against “the interests of a state institution or the state and in favour of the Jumhooree Party’s self-interest.”
As the Attorney General represents the state, the MDP contended, Azima Shukoor should advocate on behalf of the state and protection of the public interest.
“Therefore the party calls upon the Attorney General – appointed by Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, who got only five percent of the vote – to cease advocating on behalf of the state to nullify the votes cast by the people in the first round of the presidential election, and annul the election to dis-empower the people and the constitution,” the statement concluded.
Azima meanwhile told newspaper Haveeru today that article 133(d) of the constitution allows the Attorney General to intervene in such cases. The article states, “The Attorney General shall have authority, with the leave of the court, to appear as a friend of the court in any civil proceedings to which the Government is not a party, where in the opinion of the Attorney General the interests of the State or the public interest dictate.”
“The government decided that we have to say something for the sake of public interest since we can see all this information,” Azima was quoted as saying.
Azima also denied seeking annulment of the election at yesterday’s Supreme Court hearing. She had however asked the apex court to order the Prosecutor General and the police to investigate alleged electoral fraud as “serious issues” had been noted.
The AG told the court that her office had uncovered discrepancies in the voter registry, including underage people listed as eligible for voting, and the mixing up of voter information – including gender, address, and date of birth.
High Court ruling
Meanwhile, in its judgment (Dhivehi) yesterday in the JP’s case against the Elections Commission (EC), the High Court ordered the commission to allow the JP supervised access to the voter lists in lieu of ordering the EC to release hard copies of the list to the party.
The JP had claimed that the registry included hundreds of ineligible voters (underage citizens), names of voters doubled or repeated, and thousands of people registered to houses without the home owner’s knowledge.
The High Court ruling however stated that the JP was unable to offer any evidence to substantiate the claims of electoral fraud.
The ruling stated that election complaints “should not be submitted based on suspicion,” noting that the EC’s lawyer, former Attorney General Husnu Suood, had addressed each of the JP’s arguments.
Of the seven people the JP claimed were deceased but had voted, the EC proved to the court that four were alive.
On the JP’s complaint regarding people registered to houses in Male’ allegedly without the home owner’s knowledge, the EC explained that people who were originally on the Male’ Municipality’s Special Register – a special registry of people residing in the capital without owning homes – were registered to vote in ballot boxes closest to their current residence. They were registered upon written request, the EC lawyer noted.
Moreover, Suood said that the EC depended heavily on data provided by the Department of National Registration (DNR) in compiling the voters registry. The 170 names that the JP claimed were doubled on the list would have different identity card (ID) numbers and dates of birth, he noted.
DNR Director General Fareeda Yoosuf insisted yesterday that there was no chance forged IDs could be used to vote.
Each individual identity card is unique and does not change even when renewed and, even in cases where lost IDs are replaced, the same identity number is used, Yoosuf noted.
“The card number will remain the same for each individual no matter how many times the card is renewed,” she explained. “We haven’t issued identity cards with two different numbers to the same person, so I’m certain that can’t be done.”
“When each person has a unique number and is allowed to vote based on that number, there is no chance a person can vote more than once by using different ID numbers,” she continued.
No complaints of forged identity cards have been received by the DNR so far, she noted.
According to the official results of the first round of voting, MDP candidate Mohamed Nasheed finished top with 45.45 percent (95,224 votes) of the vote, followed by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate MP Abdulla Yameen in second place with 25.35 percent (53,099).
JP candidate Gasim Ibrahim narrowly missed out on a place in the second round run-off on September 28 with 24.07 percent (50,422 votes). The JP coalition however disputed the results at both the High Court and Supreme Court and launched a “Vote Rigged!” campaign of rallies – complemented by special programmes on Gasim’s Villa TV – alleging that the EC rigged the polls.
“God willing, it will be Gasim Ibrahim who will be the President of the Maldives on 11 November. Allah willing, do not doubt this. I tell you, do not doubt this,” the business tycoon declared at a recent rally.
Early on Monday morning , police acting on a tip-off from the JP, barricaded streets around the EC and took its garbage into custody. The JP accused the commission of disposing of evidence, though police later reported that the rubbish contained nothing affecting the outcome of the election.
EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek has emphatically denied allegations of vote rigging, pointing to the commission’s transparency, ongoing complaints investigations, and praise from a broad spectrum of election observers.
The UN Resident Coordinator in the Maldives, Tony Lisle, issued a statement yesterday encouraging “all presidential candidates to respect the results” of first round of presidential elections – in line with those of all other observers on the September 7 polls including delegations from the Commonwealth, UK, India, Australia, Malaysia, US, EU, Japan and Thailand.