Parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee has requested the Elections Commission (EC) cease requiring fingerprints on applications for political party membership.
According to local media, the parliamentary committee today decided that no law or regulation existed that required the EC to request fingerprints to verify the authenticity of new party members.
The committee members questioned the efficiency of fingerprinting technology, arguing that no mechanism or database presently existed in the Maldives that could store the required amounts of information.
However, local NGO the Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) told Minivan News that while it was unsure of the efficiency of the previous fingerprint system, fraudulent membership registration for Maldivian political parties remained a significant problem that needed to be addressed.
“The problem that exists right now is that there is a lot of fraudulent membership within political parties. Often, people are not aware they have been signed up,” MDN stated. “It is imperative that it is down to an individual to decide which party they want to belong to and no one else.”
MDN Executive Director Humaida Abdul Gafoor said it was vital that some form of verification mechanism was in place to ensure party memberships were genuine, adding that a bigger issue facing the committee should be finding an alternatives to the fingerprint technology, rather than simply halting it.
“We don’t know if the EC’s adoption of fingerprinting was a move in the right direction in first place,” she added.
Explaining the decision to discontinue the EC’s request for fingerprints, Deputy Chairman of the Independent Institutions Committee, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Sameer, said that the Maldives did not presently have a mechanism or system to collect and store such information.
“In regards to issues with the fingerprinting system, the EC, Department of National Registration and the Maldives Police Service all agreed they didn’t have enough records or verification systems available,” he told Minivan News.
The Department of National Registration, which had also been summoned before the committee, was reported to have confirmed that no fingerprint database presently existed in the Maldives.
Elections Commission President Fuad Thaufeeq was not responding to calls at time of press.
One critic of the EC’s fingerprint system is MP Ahmed Mahloof of the government-aligned Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
Back in September, Mahloof alleged via local media that close to 8000 membership forms from his party have been rejected by the Elections Commission (EC) – mainly due to the quality of fingerprints appearing on the forms.
The MP claimed that the fingerprint issue had arisen because the EC did not have sufficiently modern machinery to look at the fingerprints, relying instead on the perception of its staff – drastically limiting memberships numbers for the party.
A spokesperson for the EC told Minivan News at the time that similar complaints had been received from other political parties including the Jumhoree Party (JP), Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP), and the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
“Party membership forms go through a 50 step verification process. We are doing this to minimise chances of fraud. After we introduced this procedure, we are no longer receiving any complaints from individuals who have been placed in parties without their knowledge,” the spokesperson said.
The EC accepted that did not have machinery to verify fingerprints, but claimed that it had been able to forward complaints to the Maldives Police Service, which was able to use its resources to look into the matter.